Crude: Chevron Worse Than BP?
While everyone’s attention is on the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we should remember – this ain’t news. Have you ever heard of Ecuador and a little company called Texaco? Probably not – and that’s the problem.
I just finished viewing “Crude: The Real Price of Oil,” and what I learned about Ecuador and oil companies is chilling.
“Crude” is the highly acclaimed film by Joe Berlinger (“Brother’s Keeper,” “Paradise Lost”) showing a year in the life of two lawyers – Steve Potzinger, a large and loud American, and newly minted Ecuadorean attorney Pablo Fajardo – pressing a lawsuit against Chevron for alleged human rights and environmental crimes in the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador. The company is accused of polluting a Rhode Island-sized swath of jungle, and as the movie proceeds further allegations are revealed.
While the film makes no pretense at portraying Chevron kindly, the movie is far more even-handed than I expected. Berlinger gives air time to both Chevron’s staff scientists and its propaganda, while at the same time showing less-than-flattering behind-the-scenes manipulation by Steven Donziger, the loud American attorney trying to leverage the most exposure and censure of Chevron from every media moment.
The oily sludge ponds and contaminated water captured by the camera are truly horrifying, as are the many cases of cancer among the indigenous people, who neither profited nor benefited from the extraction of the oil beneath their feet – and now are paying a very real human price. But Berlinger’s film is neither scathing expose nor diatribe, but a remarkably nuanced – and even humorous at times – courtroom drama. “Crude” is an eye-opening look into what it takes for anyone to take on a multinational oil company – and hope to win.
“Crude” In the News – Again
“Crude” was released in September 2009 (remember, I said “catching up”), but Berlinger’s film made news again last month when Federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered the filmmaker to turn over to Chevron more than 600 hours of his raw footage. This represents a clear threat to independent journalism, as Bill Moyers and Michael Winship argued on Huffington Post.
In light of the current highly visible oil disaster in the Gulf, it’s worth remembering that oil companies have been desecrating people and planet in much less visible locations for a long time. If you are concerned about the earth, its inhabitants, and the continued dominance of fossil fuels in the planet’s energy portfolio, I highly recommend you watch “Crude.”
Where to Get It
Rent “Crude” from Netflix.com, or pick it up at – no pun intended – Amazon.com.
Here’s the official trailer: