Trouble at TriBeCa Film Fest?

photo credit Charles Petersheim

NY Festival Turns Away Farmers, Prompting Questions About Documentary’s Agenda

by Natalie Fertig

Hollywood, CA – Is the Tribeca Film Festival shutting out viewers who don’t agree with the messages of its documentaries?

Phelim McAleer, a journalist at the premiere of GASLAND II, a documentary critical of the fracking process of extracting natural gas, says he was turned away at the door Sunday afternoon after asking some hard-hitting questions on the red carpet, The New York Times reported.

In a video featured on Fox News, McAleer states he asked some “pointed” questions on the red carpet, which prompted nearby farmers who felt unrepresented by the movie to begin asking questions as well. McAleer says that the situation always remained polite, but became quite loud. He also states that Josh Fox, director of GASLAND PART II, didn’t want to answer the questions.

What he found when he reached the door to enter the premiere, however, was a denial of entry – despite having a ticket in his hand.

McAleer posted a video on YouTube where an unnamed person at the door is heard saying, “We’re not gonna let you in.” Someone else is then heard saying, “You were making trouble.”

McAleer then replies, “How was I making trouble?”

The doormen in the video are not identified, nor can the level of authority they have within the Tribeca Festival be ascertained. However, it seems that the Tribeca Film Fest may be leaving some information out of their press release.

The Blaze reports that Tribeca Film Festival later released a statement which said:

“Guests that had purchased advance tickets and were in line for the film 30 minutes prior, as our ticket policy states, were admitted into the screening. Once the house was at capacity, the remaining ticket holders who had not been in line were unfortunately not able to be accommodated in the theater.”

The farmers attending the film were blatantly in disagreement with its message. Also, McAleer is the director of a documentary named FRACKNATION which directly attacks the first GASLAND movie, which argues that fracking, a process of horizontal drilling for natural gas locked in shale and other underground places, is dangerous. Given these facts, one could assume that their presence made those involved with the sequel uncomfortable.

Other witnesses state that the farmers and McAleer were going above and beyond “polite” questions, with behavior bordering on heckling. This could give way to the belief that they would continue to heckle once inside the movie. However – should not one be innocent until proven guilty? Festivals have been known to remove disruptive movie-goers before, and the same could have been done should an incident have arisen within the screening.

Many questions are raised by this incident. We must ask, is this the kind of open conversation that Tribeca and other film festivals claim to be trying to foster? Independent markets such as Tribeca, Sundance, Toronto, and other smaller local film festivals have long touted themselves as a place of art, but what is more intrinsic to art than discussion, and to documentaries than the search for truth?

While making a definitive statement about the motives of either McAleer or Tribeca in this situation would require too much speculation, one important question can be asked: Are documentary movies to be seen as fact, or simply a way for individuals to support THEIR agenda, leaving out any facts or discussion that may prove them wrong? If the latter is true, then we need to remind ourselves to be increasingly media-wise when viewing documentaries, taking every fact and alleged truth with a grain of salt.

If the filmmakers creating documentaries aren’t open to discussion and argument on the facts, can we trust that they are accurately taking all facts into account within their documentary in the first place? Don’t we all wish that we knew every fact on any given subject, devoid of agenda, so we can make our own informed decision?

It seems that all that Yoko Ono and Josh Fox did by turning the farmers and Mr. McAleer away was send a message that they aren’t open to competing ideas – a very scary mentality for a documentary filmmaker to have, whether you agree with their agenda or not.

Editor’s Note:  You can view Movieguide®’s review of FRACKNATION here at

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