State Department Promoting "Gasland", Other Enviro Films To Foreign Audiences

In a true “what the frack” moment, the State Department, in association with the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has included the film Gasland in a list of 29 films to be showcased around the globe as part of an “international cultural diplomacy initiative”. The initiative, called “The American Film Showcase”, takes a panel of directors, film experts, and assorted talking heads to events the world over to screen the selected films and discuss them.


Gasland, you may recall, made quite a splash for the now famous scene featuring flammable tap water. The film (we hesitate to use the term “documentary” so loosely) is an opus to anti-natural gas drilling, and uses the fears of families about their drinking water to great dramatic effect. However, the infamous flammable tap water turns out not to have anything to do with “fracking”, despite what filmmaker Josh Fox would have audiences believe. That scene, that most pivotal scene, is not what it appears to be. As our own Steve Maley has pointed out, both the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, among others, have debunked Fox’s claim:

Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission: Gasland incorrectly attributes several cases of water well contamination in Colorado to oil and gas development when our investigations determined that the wells in question contained biogenic [naturally-occurring] methane that is not attributable to such development.

Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: Gasland is “fundamentally dishonest” and “a deliberately false presentation for dramatic effect.”

Gasland talks about Dunkard Creek [a massive fish kill] – an environmental disaster – but everything we know about Dunkard Creek at this point indicates the primary source of the problem was a coal mine in West Virginia.


The problems with the film don’t end on screen. Josh Fox’s antics continue off-screen, including exerting great effort to suppress other filmmakers from daring speak ill of his work. Phelim McAleer, who along with Ann McElhinney made the documentary Not Evil, Just Wrong, challenged Fox with regard to the fire water.

After that video was posted to YouTube, Fox and his lawyers had it taken down. And when it was instead posted to Vimeo, he had it taken down again. It is now back on YouTube (as you can see above), because the law simply didn’t support his claim.

Now that same filmmaker, Josh Fox, is positively giddy as he contemplates what exotic locales the State Department may send him to in order to promote his movie.

Because carbon footprint be damned, one assumes.

Gasland is not the only “documentary” on the list that leans green. Also included are Who Killed The Electric Car and Revenge of the Electric Car, two films that ignore the lack of demand for electric cars, and ignore the abysmal sales of electric cars, respectively. In addition to the green films, they also list Food, Inc., an indictment of the American food industry, and Pilgrimage, an indictment of U.S. internment camps during World War II. Both of these may be fine subjects for documentaries, but one wonders what the Department of State hopes to gain by screening them worldwide at taxpayer expense. I mean, were Jane Fonda and Sean Penn simply unavailable?


Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that taking a bunch of movies and directors and critics around the world to talk about movies is a responsible and reasonable function of our government (insert wink), but is it entirely necessary that the bulk of what the movies have to say is “Yeah, America is kind of crappy”? And in the case of Gasland, why is the State Department actively promoting a movie that is so questionable, the main points of which have been so thoroughly debunked?

For more on Gasland, and fracking in general, please visit And in the meantime, ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the fact that this is how your government is choosing to represent you to other nations.


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