A group of at least 20 farmers, some who woke at 4:30 a.m. in order to travel to Manhattan for a Tribeca Film Festival screening of Gasland Part II, were barred from seeing the film after questioning celebrity anti-fracking director Yoko Ono, according to filmmaker Phelim McAleer.
Festival security officials allegedly blocked the farmers from entering, and soon area police officers reportedly arrived to make sure none of the farmers could enter.
Some of the farmers, said McAleer, had yelled tough questions at both Gasland Part II director Josh Fox and anti-fracking advocate Yoko Ono as they walked the red carpet before the 3:30 p.m. screening. Both films insist the process of fracking poses an environmental hazard that far outweighs its power-producing benefits. McAleer told Breitbart News that the tough questions apparently convinced festival officials to prevent them from seeing the actual film.
“Any farmer who had the temerity to question Yoko Ono or Josh Fox wasn’t allowed in,” McAleer says. “These film festivals want to be edgy, they want to be controversial and they want people to be passionate about film … but they only want a certain kind of passionate people.”
Breitbart News has several messages into the film festival’s press department for comment.
UPDATE: Tribeca Film Festival spokesperson Tammie Rosen released this statement regarding the screening:
Gasland Part II had its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. 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 prior to 30 minutes were unfortunately not able to be accommodated in the theater.
McAleer, whose FrackNation documentary shares the positive aspects of fracking, paraphrased some of the questions hurled at the filmmaker and celebrities:
“Are you still claiming fracking causes breast cancer?” asked one farmer, a reference to a sequence included in Fox’s first film.
“Would Fox apologize to the people of Dimock, Pennsylvania?” asked another in a sign. Dimock was held up as a waste land due to fracking in the first film but, as McAleer says, the EPA later announced it posed no serious water issues for local residents.
The farmers also taunted Fox and Ono as “one percenters,” using the terminology of the Occupy Wall Street moment to depict out of touch stars disinterested in the less fortunate.
McAleer says no profanity or threats were uttered during the questions, and the farmers were behind the red carpet ropes and not in direct contact with the festival’s stars.
At least one farmer who had entered the screening but came out to see what was happening wasn’t allowed to re-enter, McAleer says.
McAleer, who had both a press pass and a ticket he bought to attend the screening, also wasn’t permitted into the theater. He says he was up front about his press needs when submitting his information to the festival’s press department prior to the event, saying the Gasland Part II screening was his sole interest in the festival.
Inge Grafe-Kieklak, a 70-year-old farmer from upstate New York, said she was shocked by the festival’s actions.
“They called the police on me! I’m 70! What did they think I was going to do? I was only asking questions. Then I wanted to go in and see a documentary that claims to tell the truth about my life,” she says. “It seems questions are not welcome at Tribeca Film Festival. I feel horrible. I feel censored. It’s like I was in Russia, not the Tribeca Film Festival. If I could speak to [festival co-founder] Robert De Niro I would ask him why he is supporting these one percenter celebrities against the farmers of upstate New York.”