For many of us who are familiar with Matt Damon’s environmental advocacy work, we offer much appreciation and thanks. Mr. Damon’s latest film, “Promised Land,” which brings to light some of the more unethical tactics used by gas industry executives, will hopefully create a stir and help spread the word about the dangerous gas drilling process known as “fracking.” In addition this writer has great admiration and respect for Mr. Damon’s talent as an actor, producer and writer.
The Wrong Story
The film, “Promised Land,” is well written, beautifully photographed, well crafted and acted and will likely engage viewers on an emotional level as it follows the personal journey and story arc of its main character: gas man, “Steve Butler,” played by Matt Damon, through his crisis of conscience. Sadly, for this viewer, the film misses the mark in terms of the story it choses to tell which is contrived and begs credulity. In focusing mainly on the romantic interest, taking the perspective of the gas industry lease pushers and sympathizing with the “other side,” the film loses an opportunity to portray any one of the more compelling life and death struggles that most families in gas drilling communities are faced with–the desperate stories of poisoned water, ruined farms and livestock, lost property values, and sickened and bankrupted communities wrought by oil and gas industry recklessness. These are the real-life stories that need to be told, shouted out for all the world to hear, to understand the insanity of fracking and take action against it.
The surprising denouement, which I won’t give away here, is an unfortunate plot twist and one must wonder what rationale went into this choice. If the intention for making the film was to boost the cause for environmental justice, this cinematic choice sends an ambiguous and confusing message to those uninitiated to the horrors of fracking, while giving short shrift to tackling the more serious problems with the industry and the valiant environmental champions trying to protect us from harm. To be fair, there is only so much information that can be artfully crammed into a two hour dramatization. Still, I worry the film will be of questionable value in advancing the case against fracking, though one should never underestimate the draw of romance and emotional content in Hollywood films. The real question is, will it rouse people to take action to stop fracking? Only time will tell.
For the sake of our health, our environment and future, I certainly hope I’m wrong about this film’s potential to move the masses. Many of us who have been in the trenches fighting fracking for some time now have done our homework and witnessed the evidence. We are utterly convinced that there is no question as to the harm it causes! We know about the myth of “safe” fracking and that the sacrifice to our health and communities is too great. There is no ambiguity whatsoever. For those willing to face facts, it is absolutely clear that fracking will lead us off the environmental cliff to ever more devastated communities, contaminated water, air and food, sickness, economic ruin, increasingly catastrophic climate events and the end of a livable planet.
Gusti Bogok is Co-Chair of the Atlantic Chapter Gas Drilling Task Force
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