From: Tex Hawkins
Thanks to Chris Rogers for his follow-up story today on the Frozen River Film Festival’s panel discussion, Documentaries Today: My Fact, Your Fiction, at Somsen Auditorium last Sunday, using the time slot that had been reserved for FracNation, which was legitimately canceled after a series of disagreements with the film-maker on both the honorarium and participation. Clearly, if there had ever been any intent to “censor” the film — it could have been eliminated during the application and review process and would never have appeared in the program. There would not have been any offer of a travel stipend, rejection of that offer, or subsequent demand for a lot more money, followed by a refusal to attend unless the demand was met.
Putting it bluntly, the whole thing appears to have been some sort of publicity stunt or smear campaign against FRFF itself, perhaps in retaliation for featuring quality films by independents. There was the media echo-chamber, the hate mail, and blog attacks, the color posters crying out “censorship,” apparently all carefully orchestrated to achieve the desired negative effect. The surprising part is that this has happened before in pretty much the same way. HBO featured film-maker Josh Fox and even the victims he interviews in Gas Land I and II have been hounded across the entire nation, and vilified in front of their children. This we learned from the ex-Mayor of DISH, Texas, Calvin Tillman, who spoke during the panel and appears in Gas Land II.
Winona and the FRFF took a hit from this experience. It was unfair to all concerned and it could have lasting effects. But it also represents an educational moment — an opportunity to learn from a bad experience. We need to consider whether some of that outrage and bluster was manufactured somewhere outside of Winona to intimidate, discourage or disempower citizens most concerned about the health of their children and future prosperity of their communities. Who would do something like that? Who would deceive and threaten and cheat good people for fast profit? Maybe we could all take a closer look at both of these films and decide that for ourselves. Maybe there’s a hard lesson here that could benefit the whole community.