Crude Spilled in the Amazon
Surpasses Gulf of Mexico Disaster
A gigantic oil spill. A lawsuit filed by local indigenous peoples against a multinational oil giant. An award-winning documentary about the conflict and its environmental impact, with testimony accounts from both sides. A judge ruling in favor of the corporation with the unprecedented demand for the filmmaker to surrender all unused footage.
A possible scenario for the outcome of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill a few years down the road? No, just a completely unrelated case with a similar cast of characters.
When Joe Berlinger, a respected filmmaker with several awards under his belt, finished “Crude: The Real Price of Oil” last year, it was the culmination of a three-year journey pursuing an all-too familiar tale of unbounded greed and environmental destruction with his well-honed journalistic skills.
“Crude” documents the struggle of 30,000 indigenous rainforest dwellers in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, against Chevron, which is accused of poisoning water, air and land and creating a “death zone” in an area the size of Rhode Island.
The movie won praise and prestigious awards for its unbiased approach to the lawsuit’s merit. It also gave more credence to the Ecuadorians’ case against a team of multimillion dollar lawyers hired by Chevron, the resulting name of its 2001 merger with Texaco. But last May, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered Berlinger to turn over to Chevron some 600 hours of raw footage from the making of the film.
The decision represented a setback to the plaintiffs case but above all has serious implications to First Amendment rights. That’s why there’s now an ongoing effort to raise money to fund a defense and an appeal against the judge’s decision.
So, although unrelated, the case for “Crude,” its director’s First Amendment Rights, and the indigenous peoples it’s trying to stand up for, has indeed a lot to do with what’s happening in the Gulf.
Its impact is not just environmentally worst than the damage currently being sponsored by BP, but it’s also an enforceable argument against future oil spills or plain environmental malfeasance from the part of big, global and enormously wealthy oil concerns.