"Promised Land" is a new film starring and written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, based on a story by San Francisco-based writer Dave Eggers. In the film, Damon and actress Frances McDormand play a team that shows in rural town hard hit by economic decline, offering to pay big money for drilling rights.
Krasinski plays a local activist who leads the town into rebellion against the drillers, arguing that their plans would damage the local environment. To anyone who is familiar with the debates about fracking in, say, upstate New York this will be a familiar story.
The more interesting twist here isn’t in the move—it’s in the movie’s creation. The film was produced “in association with” Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, as first reported by the Heritage Foundation. Abu Dhabi Media—which has never had a role in a major American film before—is wholly owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, a small but extremely wealthy federation of absolute monarchies along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf.
The UAE has the world’s seventh largest oil reserves, according to the CIA Factbook. It is ranked ahead of Russia and just behind Kuwait in proven oil reserves. It is the fourth largest exporter of oil in the world. And, of course, it is a member of OPEC.
Very obviously, the UAE has an interest in slowing down the expansion of hydraulic fracking that has created an energy boom in the United States. A popular film—there’s even talk of it being an Oscar candidate—might give a boost to the opponents of fracking.
Although that’s not necessarily what will happen. There’s already a Facebook group formed by residents of the area in Pennsylvania where much of the movie was filmed who claim they were deceived about the filmmakers intentions.
“They filmed this movie in our backyard. They told us it would be fair to drilling. It’s not. We’re p*ssed,” the group complains.
No doubt news of the UAE’s involvement in the film will make backlash even more likely.
- by CNBC.com senior editor John Carney
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