Matt Damon’s latest film Promised Land – a tale about the impact of fracking on small-town America – doesn’t hit movie theaters until December 28, but it’s already being targeted by the fossil fuels lobby.
The story, written by Damon and John Kraskinski (best-known for The Office) and directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), centers on a small Pennsylvania town sitting atop rich natural gas reserves that can be tapped only if the residents allow fracking on their land. The economy is depressed and residents are tempted by the money they can get leasing their land for fracking.
The movie pits Damon, a slick natural gas company salesman, against Kraskinski, an environmentalist. The money looks great to local residents until Kraskinski exposes the tradeoffs – risks to their drinking water and air quality that Damon fails to mention.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents oil and gas interests, is so concerned about the film’s message that it’s planning several strategies for the upcoming release – including distributing leaflets to moviegoers, providing film reviewers with "data" and launching a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook, reports The Wall Street Journal.
"We’ve been surprised at the emergence of what looks like a concerted campaign targeting the film even before anyone’s seen it," James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features, told the Journal.
The lobbying group has already started screening their own documentary on the subject, "Truthland," showing it in community centers and hotels across the US.
Promised Land is being produced and distributed by NBC Universal’s Focus Features in collaboration with Participant Media and Image Nation Abu Dhabi.
From our perspective, the fossil fuels lobby’s reaction isn’t surprising given the pedigree of the talent behind the film.
With highly appealing actors like Damon and Krasinki telling the story, Promised Land could bring widespread attention to the fracking debate in a way the mainstream media has yet to accomplish.
The epicenter of the fracking debate currently is in New York, which recently extended a four-year moratorium on the practice, pending a review on public health.
"Fracking is the catalyst for a bigger story about the complex challenges confronting small towns across America today," says Jim Berk, CEO of Participant Media. Producers also want to "raise awareness of the importance of transparency and regulations for public health and safety," in a time when they’re under attack.
Here’s the trailer: