Last week, Winona City Council member Paul Double publicly decried FRFF's decision to cancel "FrackNation" as "censorship alive and well in Winona." In an interview this week he criticized the festival's use of public funding, saying he will press the issue "of funding for the Frozen River Film Festival" at the next council meeting.
The city of Winona did not provide any funding for the festival this year, as it once did. However, a Legacy Amendment grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board was one of the top sources of funding for the 2014 festival. Local tax dollars (from hotels) do help fund Visit Winona, which promotes FRFF and other local festivals.
"If you're going to accept public funds, then you need to recognize that we have a diverse public and you need to present an issue with openness and fairness so that the public at-large is able to hear the issue and make its own opinion," Double said in the interview this week.
Arguments should not be written off because the industry is making them, Double said in a previous interview. If industries can prove their cases, society ought to listen, he said.
"I don't think it's at all appropriate for the council to weigh in on what was apparently a very complicated set of interactions," said council member Pam Eyden in an interview. "This whole thing has been blown out of proportion," she continued, pointing to the festival's original intent to screen the film as evidence of its good faith interest in presenting both sides.
Double argued that the council ought to take action because negative publicity caused by FRFF's cancellation has damaged Winona tourism. "We [have drawn] national attention to the fact that we're not open to the public discussion of controversial issues," he said. Double acknowledged that anti-fracking and anti-frac sand films may have a impact on local industry, as well. He criticized development and industry opponents, saying "their opinions don't pay living wages."
This controversy may be more about sand than the film festivals' principles, Eyden suggested. "If it weren't [for] frac sand in this town, nobody would have known about" FRFF's cancellation.
It is appropriate "when we [council members] see some negative publicity come out of it for our city, to respond accordingly," Double stated. He added, "bad decisions have consequences, and hopefully the council will, in fact, recognize that and respond accordingly."
"I don't think that's appropriate at all," Eyden said of Double's call for council action. The festival brings people from all over the region to Winona. "It's definitely a positive thing," she said.