I get it that companies, organizations, and even countries use film as a way to get their message across to the masses and to affect public opinion. I was just on a flight and began watching the movie Promised Land with Matt Damon. One minute into the movie, it’s clear this movie is going to be about a farm town story where a big natural gas company comes in to buy all the property and begin fracking to produce the gas that lies beneath their town.
Then, I notice that “Image Nation Abu Dhabi” is listed in the opening credits (small print, short notice, no specific credit mention), and I guess it is probably involved, somehow, in the production of the film. I paused the film and wrote down my thoughts: What does Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have to do with this film? It reminded me that Abu Dhabi and UAE are oil nations. Actually, the whole economy of UAE is based on oil as the world’s third largest oil exporter.
So, what is one of the greatest threats to UAE oil exports? It’s natural gas. Especially, natural gas production via fracking in the US. So if this film, suddenly, conveys natural gas harvesting via fracking in some bad light, this would, quite possibly, serve to halt or slow down the progression of natural gas production and use.
I have no opinion about the viability of fracking. However, this seemed to me as pure propaganda sugar-coated as a drama film. Fear mongering, trying to induce fear and slow down progression of natural gas – all this in order to prolong the success of oil. That’s rather cynical, wouldn’t you think? This would then just be a negative publicity movie out of pure commercial interests.
That’s what I thought before watching the movie – merely from the opening scene. I then went on to watch the whole film, which confirmed my speculation. Wrapped as a drama film about a small town and relationships the movie portrays the big bad natural gas company as evil as possible. The film conveys FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) related to natural gas production in the minds of the viewers. Anybody that would watch this movie would spend more time learning and thinking about whether to help / support the extraction of natural gas.
So why would well-known actors such as Matt Damon join forces in this propaganda? Well, all it would take for the film producers would be to find someone that believes the cause as much as they, perhaps for various environmental reasons – and they may even agree to do the movie at low cost given the alignment with their own views.
Everybody is entitled to share their view, and use film as a means. However, I think that full disclosure is missing here. I do not know how much funding and what role Image Nation Abu Dhabi had in producing the film, but I believe that whatever the role is – full disclosure should be there, up front, that funding to this film came, at least in part, from the government of Abu Dhabi (the owner of of Abu Dhabi Media, that in turn, is the owner of Image Nation Abu Dhabi). The very subtle way the name was mentioned in the opening titles was so subtle, I’d speculate ~99.9% of the viewers would not realize this film was such a propaganda film.
Putting the finishing touches on this post, I ran across this post and video of Matt Damon’s response to the accusations against the film. I do want to mention that Image Nation Abu Dhabi lists Promised Land as one of their films, though IMDB does list 4 companies as film production companies for the movie, including Focus Films. And finally, looking for a picture for this post, I discovered a web site called “Real Promised Land” that proves that similar approaches, albeit slightly less subtle, are also in use by those with opposing views.
Update: Someone asked me if I liked the movie. Well, I’d give it a 6/10. It’s not that bad, and would probably get a 7 if it weren’t for this agenda. As an actor, Matt Damon is pretty good – here, and mostly in general.