Perhaps floored that a subsidiary of the state-owned Abu Dhabi Media, Image Nation, could be behind such a high-quality production as Promised Land, a new anti-fracking film written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, western bloggers are drawing conspiratorial connections between the production company and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
The theory goes that Abu Dhabi financed the film, which was also produced by Focus Features and Participant Media, because if the fracking industry fails, western states will be forced to continue purchasing oil from OPEC (as if there was ever any risk that a single drop would go to waste.)
Abu Dhabi’s creative merit called into question
Because Abu Dhabi Media is chaired by his Excellency Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, who also reports to a member of the Supreme Petroleum Council of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the film can’t possibly have creative merit.
Business Insider reports that the “movie was funded out of a $250 million “slate-based investment” formed in 2008 between Participant Media and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, in which both sides agreed to make 15-18 films using the capital from the investment fund. Participant Media, which is known for creating provocative and socially conscious films,” added via email that the investment covers all qualifying Participant narrative films regardless of genre or subject matter.”
Bear in mind that this same partnership produced “The Help,” a powerful critique of the relationships between African American maids and their employers (owners?) during the 1960s US civil rights movement. If Abu Dhabi were completely controlling the puppet strings of Image Nation, they couldn’t possibly have sanctioned this film since it draws attention to similar, often unhealthy relationships between wealthy Emiratis and their foreign employees.
The dangers of tracking
In the Promised Land, Matt Damon is a salesman for a natural gas company who heads into a small American town hit hard by economic crisis. The locals are beguiled by offers of money for their land, which will be subjected to a controversial method of natural gas extraction called hydraulic tracking.
This method not only requires about 1-8 million gallons of water per job but also uses up to 600 chemicals in 40,000 gallons of fracking fluid injected 10,000 feet into the ground through a drilled pipeline. More discussion about the environmental and social dangers associated with fracking can be found at a thedangersoffracking.com.
That an Arab film production company is capable of such a strong social criticism seems to be the real issue here. Are westerners so ignorant of the talents in this part of the world that they must instantly draw sinister connections when something remarkable is produced here?
Not only that, but Abu Dhabi’s environmental record, despite the Emirate’s reliance on fossil fuels for its wealth, has taken much larger strides in environmental progress than the United States.
Recall that while President Obama refused to reinstall Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the White House roof, HH Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the same connection used to substantiate these dubious conspiracy theories, crowned his court with a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels.
Spotlight on the real bad guys
Could it possibly be that Abu Dhabi creatives actually mean to condemn an environmentally destructive method of fossil fuel extraction? Could it be that some states evolve with the times? That what defined our past need not define our future?
Instead of promulgating slippery stereotypes that Gulf countries are oil-mad demons who will stop at nothing to get every last cent out of their oil, rather let the spotlight cast by Promised Land shine on the real bad guys: the frackers.
Image credit: Screengrab from Promised Land Trailer