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Matt Damon fracking film backed by big OPEC member

October 1, 2012: 12:54 PM ET

Matt Damon's new fracking film is generating controversy over its funding.

Matt Damon's new film on fracking, "Promised Land", is generating some buzz -- though probably not the kind studio execs were hoping for.

Last week, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation pointed out that in the trailer for film, one of the financial backers listed is Image Nation Abu Dhabi.

Image Nation Abu Dhabi is, in turn, owned by Abu Dhabi Media - a state media company for the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, an OPEC member, is the world's third-largest oil exporter.

For a film that highlights the dangers of fracking -- the controversial process that has unleashed an energy boom in the United States -- this may be problematic, as evidenced by Twitter posts Monday:

Critics contend the UAE is trying to drum up opposition to more U.S. oil production, which could compete with its crude exports.

It's also possible the UAE -- which has financed at least a half-dozen Hollywood films -- overlooked the conflict of interest and simply thought the film was a good investment due to its all-star cast (Oscar winner Frances McDormand and John Krasinski of "The Office fame co-star) and director (Gus Van Sant).

A spokeswoman for Image Nation Abu Dhabi said that while the company gets "supporting funds" from the Abu Dhabi government, it is a "commercially-driven and independently-operated" entity.

A spokeswoman for Participant Media, which arranged financing for the film, said the funding was part of a larger deal with Image Nation Abu Dhabi  to invest in 15 to 18 films over a five year time period, "regardless of genre or subject matter."

Either way, the revelation could be a setback for a film on an important U.S. energy topic, and will only give ammunition to critics who say the movie was biased from the get-go.

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About This Author
Steve Hargreaves
Steve Hargreaves
Senior Writer, CNNMoney

Steve Hargreaves is a senior writer covering economic, energy and environmental issues at CNNMoney. Previously, he worked out of Istanbul and Bangkok, and has been published in the Village Voice and the Australian Financial Review. He tweets at @HargreavesCNN

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