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Matt Damon's fracking film bombs at Berlinale

Published: 09 Feb 2013 11:19 GMT+01:00

Damon, who co-wrote the script and stars in the picture directed by Gus Van Sant, said it was getting harder to make "issue movies" and that he was bewildered by critics who found the story of a natural gas executive wrestling with his conscience implausible and incoherent.

"It didn't get the reception that I would have hoped for but that happens sometimes," he said. "I've had movies bomb worse than this one and then make their money back later."

“Promised Land,” which Damon said cost less than $18 million to make, has only drawn about $7.6 million at the US box office since its late December release, according to trade magazine Variety.

Damon plays a top sales executive working for a company seeking to unlock natural gas from shale rock formations through a process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

He promises down-on-their-luck Kentucky farmers millions in exchange for their land rights, pitting their immediate economic survival against safety and pollution risks.

Damon, a longtime environmental advocate, said the issues were close to his heart "because the stakes are just so incredibly high and the debate is really raging right now everywhere all over the world."

Yet the Oscar-winning actor's passion did not extend to members of German anti-fracking protest groups who travelled to Berlin in the hope of meeting the star, but whom Damon ignored while greeting fans outside the Berlinale Palast theatre at Potsdamer Platz.

“We didn't think it very nice that Damon walked by us without speaking to us,” said a spokeswoman from a citizens' association which had travelled from near Erfurt to see him.

Fracking has become one of the most divisive environmental issues in the energy sector, particularly in the United States. Since 2007, it has made possible the cost-effective exploitation of immense oil and gas reserves beneath subterranean shale strata, driving down energy prices.

But campaigners argue fracking pollutes the water table and soil with the chemicals it requires and has even triggered earthquakes.

Germany could use the technique to access enough natural gas to supply the nation for 20 years, Der Spiegel magazine reported in October, but safety concerns have so far caused government authorities to shy away from granting permits to do so.

Energy firms have suggested the film was also marred by a conflict of interest because some of the financing came from the United Arab Emirates, a giant oil exporter for which gas extraction is a major threat.

AFP/DPA/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

13:12 February 9, 2013 by pepsionice
And I need a critic to tell me this movie is a failure? Basically, what they told him....no one believes the script, or the idea of things happening as suggested.
17:08 February 9, 2013 by vonSchwerin
"drew poor reviews"????

Well, where are they? What did the critics say about the film? Why is it so bad?

This article is supposed to be about the film and the poor reviews it received, and instead it's about some activists from Erfurt who are upset that Damon didn't hug and kiss them.
17:45 February 9, 2013 by johnny108
The problem is with the premise of the film. An oil executive with a conscience? Not gonna happen- not even in science fiction.
18:49 February 9, 2013 by IchBinKönig
@Johnny108

You do realize the film was made with financial backing from middle eastern oil interests. The problem with the premise of your opinion is that you are actually in support of the oil interests propaganda.
19:42 February 9, 2013 by hanskarl
@ IchBinKönig. Excellent point. Matt should have stayed out of the politics and kept on playing Jason Bourne. He was much better at that. While he may have won the hearts of the politically correct elite in Hollywood and beyond he lowered his opinion rating amongst many of his Bourne followers.
21:22 February 9, 2013 by raandy
True, why take on any political issues, you are surely going to alienate yourself from some of your fans.

Fracking who gives a fracking??
23:43 February 9, 2013 by PNWDev
America exports its resident dumbass Damon and his propoganda to Germany and it bombs? Too bad Matty, I'm sure the brits will welcome you with open arms. They have evidence fracking produces man caused global warming.
00:53 February 10, 2013 by iseedaftpeople
Well that's a frackin' shame... I guess...

btw when did Matt Damon get all that grey hair? or is that just a bad picture of him...
01:03 February 10, 2013 by zeddriver
One of the problems of a Hollywood jet setter like Damon taking on the issue of environmental politics through a movie. Is that right after telling his fans about how bad oil is. He jumps into his limo. Drives to his private (or chartered) jet. Flies off somewhere to a land far away. Jumps into another limo. And tells that crowd that oil is bad.

And I'm sure Damon has a modest house or ten. Just like Al Gore's 10,000 Sq.Ft house. Oh I'm sure he buys carbon credit's. But isn't that just the same as buying an indulgence from the Catholic church? All while telling the commoners they have to down size and tighten their belts.

There's a word for that. Oh yes! I remember. Hypocrite.
02:50 February 10, 2013 by Eric1
I haven't seen it, but it sounds like a left wing propaganda film.
23:20 February 10, 2013 by strahlungsamt
Mmmiaatt Daamon!
17:26 February 11, 2013 by ron1amr
I guess I will have to watch this movie. I never knew about fracking so I guess I will learn something. I think I should watch this film and decide for myself if it is a good movie or not. You cant really trust just because a movie is a flop doesn't mean it is a bad movie it must be because of media. Media have large investments in oil companies see how many car adds there are. Damon missed meeting anti fracking protest groups. Did the group make it known to Damon they were travelling to Berlin to see him? Was he made aware? One thing I do know is we seriously need to address climate change. Maybe the media want this movie to go under the radar so that they can keep on making their huge moneys from oil royalties?
20:01 February 11, 2013 by scatmaster
I haven't seen it, but it sounds like a left wing propaganda film

Is there any other kind?
21:12 February 12, 2013 by neunElf
"The problem is with the premise of the film. An oil executive with a conscience? Not gonna happen- not even in science fiction. "

Yes, that is almost as rare as a leftist environmental activist with an open mind!
10:25 February 13, 2013 by Bier_me
@ron1amr,

Do yourself a favor and watch Gasland. Its a documentary about the dangers of fracking and it will open your eyes. I respect Mr. Damon for at least trying to expose this important topic to the general public, but he could have done a better job. Getting funding from UAE was not a smart move on his part because it casts doubt on the authenticity of the facts. Nevertheless, the facts are out there and there is plenty of evidence out there about the dangers of fracking.
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