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Originally published Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:50 AM

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Damon's fracking drama gets run at Berlin prize

Matt Damon hopes "Promised Land," his drama on the divisive practice of fracking, will win over international critics, despite a U.S. reception that disappointed the actor.

The Associated Press

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BERLIN —

Matt Damon hopes "Promised Land," his drama on the divisive practice of fracking, will win over international critics, despite a U.S. reception that disappointed the actor.

The movie on shale gas drilling, directed by Gus Van Sant and with a script written by Damon and co-star John Krasinski, has its international premiere Friday at the Berlin film festival. It is one of 19 films running for the Golden Bear award.

In the United States, where the movie opened last month, "it didn't get the reception that I would have hoped for, but that happens sometimes," Damon told reporters. "Sometimes people find movies later on."

Damon stars as a salesman persuading inhabitants of a small town to sell a big energy firm the right to extract gas from beneath their farmland.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, frees natural gas from shale deep underground by injecting a well with chemically treated water and sand. Supporters say it can be an economic boon to rural areas, but critics say it can pollute groundwater.

The film was shot in western Pennsylvania. Damon said the movie crew heard strong opinions there from both backers and detractors of fracking.

"We didn't want the film to be a judgment on what to do," Damon insisted.

"What we really wanted to do was make a movie about American identity," he said. "The actual issue itself was secondary to wanting to explore where we are right now, how we make big decisions."

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