It doesn't sound like a subject to appeal to Hollywood, yet fracking is coming to a screen near you, and film-makers are as deeply divided on its merits as everyone else. Later this month, fracking-based drama Promised Land arrives in UK cinemas. Matt Damon plays a conflicted corporate salesman trying to persuade rural townspeople to sell their natural-gas drilling rights.
According to Phelim McAleer, maker of the new pro-fracking documentary Fracknation, the process was barely considered controversial until 2010, when director Josh Fox released his Emmy-winning HBO film Gasland, which claimed fracking polluted drinking water and caused widespread illness. Most famously, Fox filmed tap water bursting into flames. "Gasland is one of the most influential documentaries of the last 10 years," says McAleer. "It took a process that's been going on half a century and made it scary and sinister."
An incensed former Sunday Times journalist, McAleer decided to make his own rival film. Fracknation's $150,000 budget was raised on Kickstarter. It paints a rosy picture of hydraulic fracturing, rubbishing many of the claims made in Gasland – specifically the flaming taps, a phenomenon McAleer says had nothing to do with fracking.
McAleer is upfront about having been funded by fossil-fuel firms on previous projects, but for Fracknation, he insists he and his colleagues returned any donations from energy executives: about $30,000.
Now Fox is making a second critical film about fracking.
'Promised Land' is released on 19 April; 'Fracknation' is out on DVD