Free Speech: Minnesota Film Festival Censors Fracking Documentary


If you haven’t watched FrackNation, the fracking documentary by Phelim McAleer, you should. It’s available for purchase online, and is being screened at events around the nation.

But not in Winona, Minnesota, it seems. At a film festival in Winona, a town in an area where much sand used in the fracking process is produced, the film has been banned by organizers who question the motivations of the film, but apparently not their own.

WINONA, Minn. — The Frozen River Film Festival has iced out — critics say censored — a showing of the critically acclaimed, if controversial in some circles, feature documentary ”FrackNation,” setting the stage for a less than artful narrative of what happened and a public relations backlash starring the banished filmmakers.

FRFF board members declined to respond to repeated requests from Watchdog Minnesota to comment on their decision.  The film’s directors, however, contend the last-minute cancellation makes their point better than the documentary itself.

“They seem to think they know what’s best for everyone,” said Phelim McAleer, a co-director and narrator of “FrackNation.”  “And what they’ve decided is the ‘ordinary’ people shouldn’t be allowed to see something from a different point of view…movies for zombies.  No dissent allowed.”

Fracking looms as one of the most contentious issues in Winona, a southeastern Minnesota city situated amid rich frac sand deposits used to drill for gas and oil deposits deep underground. The film’s revocation raised questions about providing alternative perspectives on important policy issues at a festival supported by $32,000 in taxpayer funding from the state arts and cultural heritage fund.

The festival organizers say they banned the film because, they claim, it was funded by pro-fracking interests. There’s no evidence of that – the funding actually came from a Kickstarter campaign – but there is evidence for the chairman of the Frozen River Film Festival being an anti-fracking activist:

Mike Kennedy, however, does have ties to the Izaak Walton League, an environmental group that supports a moratorium on fracking. Kennedy stated his views in a locally published op-ed promoting an environmental film in the 2013 festival.

“This is the perfect public presentation for a community that could be an epicenter for the handling and transportation of products from the largest industrial-scale frac sand mining operation in the nation,” wrote Kennedy.

Even if FrackNation was funded by the oil industry – and it wasn’t, such claims are categorically false – so what? If anti-fracking activists can make documentaries, why can’t people who frack or the people who view fracking positively make a documentary?

What are these people so afraid of?