Winona film festival's decision to cancel pro-fracking documentary stirs controversy

"FrackNation" was set to be shown along with the anti-fracking documentary "Gasland 2."

"FrackNation" was set to be shown along with the anti-fracking documentary "Gasland 2."

The Winona Frozen River Film Festival's decision to cancel a showing of a film sympathetic to the fracking industry a week before this weekend's event has the controversial documentary's director crying foul.

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Speaking of the festival organizers, one of the directors of "FrackNation," Phelim McAleer, said, "Their environmentalism is based on a lot of emotion and fear and when someone challenges them they get emotional and fearful."

But festival director Crystal Hegge says McAleer has "launched a smear campaign to gain publicity for this film."

She told us the main reason festival officials decided to can the screening of "FrackNation" wasn't because they disagree with the film's insinuations. Instead, she said it was because McAleer and his co-directors refused to send somebody to Winona for an accompanying question-and-answer session unless they were compensated with $10,000 "plus an honorarium for travel and expenses."

"We can't afford that," Hegge said. "We're a small film festival."

According to the documentary's website, "In 'FrackNation' journalist Phelim McAleer faces threats, cops and bogus lawsuits questioning green extremists for the truth about fracking."

"McAleer uncovers fracking facts suppressed by environmental activists, and he talks with rural Americans whose livelihoods are at risk if fracking is banned," the site continues. "Emotions run high but the truth runs deep."

Though Hegge said the "FrackNation" screening was canceled over the dispute about sending a representative to Winona, she also took the opportunity to blast the documentary.

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"At the end of the day the film is just a bad film," Hegge said. "It got its content through bullying and harassment of women." (For more about those allegations, check out this post on

"It's not the type of documentary filmmaking we want to promote at our festival," Hegge continued, adding that she and other festival organizers were still willing to follow through with their original plan to show the film until it became clear "FrackNation" wasn't going to send somebody to Winona without being handsomely compensated.

But McAleer believes the cancellation isn't the result of logistics, despite what Hegge now says.

"They never said sending somebody was a make-or-break condition," McAleer told us. "And since then they've changed their story three or four times. It's cowardice."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]