Fracking documentaries square off in Boulder tonight

Filmmakers Josh Fox and Phelim McAleer are having quite an argument, but mostly on film and not in the same room. Both men will be in Boulder tonight at the same time to present documentaries that claim to expose the truth about using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in natural gas drilling. But the events are scheduled in different venues, and undecided moviegoers should be advised that the two films have contrary ideas of what the underlying "truth" about fracking might be.

Gasland 2, Fox's film, is the long-awaited follow-up to his polemical 2010 work, much of it shot in Colorado; it helped to galvanize public concerns about fracking threats to water and health nationwide. Fox's muckracking -- in particular, a scene that showed a Weld County homeowner lighting his kitchen tap on fire, an indication of how badly contaminated with methane his water supply had become after natural gas drilling marched into the area -- prompted gushers of criticism from the energy industry, as well as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which countered that the methane in question was naturally occurring in the water and not a result of fracking.

Fox has fought back with his own lengthy refutation of the criticism, and he brings Gasland 2, which will air on HBO in July, to the University of Colorado at Boulder campus tonight for a screening and Q&A.

At the same time, McAleer, an Irish journalist on the warpath against environmentalist "scare tactics," brings FrackNation, his own pugnacious critique of Gasland, to the Boulder Marriott. One scene contains a memorable confrontation between McAleer and Fox over the sink-on-fire episode.

Yet McAleer's debunking seems almost genteel compared to some of the negative industry PR gearing up to discredit Gasland 2. A group called Energy For America has even released a fake trailer for Fox's movie, claiming it only manages to "fracture the truth."

So many truths, so little time. Catch Gasland 2 at the Glen Miller Ballroom, 1669 Euclid Avenue, at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22 -- or FrackNation at the Boulder Marriott, 2660 Canyon Boulevard, at 7 p.m. And check out the fake trailer below.

More from our Television & Film archive: "Fracking opponents' horror stories exaggerated, says FrackNation director in town tonight."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast