Assembly Wasn’t Always Leery of Screenings at the Capitol
By Casey Seiler
April 4, 2016
|Folk singer Pete Seeger with actor Mark Ruffalo at the Capitol in July 2010. (John Carl D’Annibale, Times Union)|
Ken Lovett of the Daily News reported Monday that the Assembly’s leadership rejected Queens Democrat Marge Markey’s request to hold a screening of the Oscar-winning drama “Spotlight” at the Capitol.
The film concerns the Boston Globe’s coverage of the pedophilia coverup by the city’s Catholic Diocese. Markey has for years backed legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse in New York. The bill is opposed by the state’s Catholic Conference.
According to Lovett’s column, the Assembly initially claimed the screening would have violated the film’s copyright. After Markey obtained clearance and paid a fee for the screening, the Democratic leadership issued a backup objection.
“It’s just not something we do on government property,” Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, told Lovett. “It would open the door to showing all sorts of things that some people might find objectionable. … We just don’t want to go down that road.”
The Assembly was not always so leery of screening films on controversial subjects.
In May 2010, the Assembly held an evening screening of the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland” in the Legislative Office Building. Anti-fracking activists and actors Mark Ruffalo (who, in a twist, was Oscar-nominated for his role as a member of the Globe’s investigative team in “Spotlight”) and Debra Winger attended. The screening was sponsored by diehard fracking opponents Barbara Lifton and Steve Englebright.
After the screening, Winger and Ruffalo were introduced in the Assembly. “Gasland” director Josh Fox made numerous appearances in and around the Capitol during the years-long debate over whether the controversial natural gas drilling technique should be allowed in New York — a debate that was at least temporarily resolved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision in December 2014 to ban it upon the advice of his Health Department and Department of Environmental Conservation.
Whyland didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the apparent change in policy.
Here are the details of the 2010 “Gasland” screening:
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D/WF-Tompkins/Cortland), along with her colleague Steve Englebright, is today hosting a special viewing of the film GASLAND, a documentary about gas drilling around the country. GASLAND was the recipient of the Special Jury Prize for a Documentary at Sundance 2010. The screening in Albany will feature special guests Debra Winger, Executive Producer, and Mark Ruffalo, both of whom live in the Catskill region of New York State.
“This award-winning documentary reveals the consequences of natural gas drilling across the United States. Much of the recent expansion of drilling has been spurred by the increase in deep well hydrofracking, a practice that threatens to open up the Marcellus Shale in central New York to large-scale industrial drilling practices. Showing GASLAND to the members of the New York State legislature, as well as representatives from state agencies, will highlight some of the impacts that hydrofracking may bring to our communities. It is important that all the leaders in state government become fully aware of all facets of the hydrofracking phenomenon, before determining its fate in the State of New York,” says Lifton.
The film will be shown in Hearing Room C at 6 PM. Ms. Winger and Mr. Ruffalo will be introduced in the Assembly at about 5 PM, and then will meet with various legislators before the movie.