Friday, June 12, 2009

NY Times highlights “Crude” at Human Rights Watch; Film Premiering Tomorrow

"Crude" – the documentary which exposes Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador – is premiering tomorrow at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, at the Lincoln Center theatre. And in advance of the screening, the New York Times published a glowing review of the film today: You can read below:


From Ecuador to Rwanda: Portraits of Global Threats and Struggles


Lessons in how the world works and portraits of the never-ending struggles in places around the globe where power is challenged by populist resistance: such matters are a concern of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Rarely have such conflicts been examined with the depth and power of Joe Berlinger's documentary "Crude." Three years in the making, the film looks at all sides of the so-called Amazon Chernobyl case, a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that pits 30,000 Ecuadorean rainforest dwellers against Chevron.

In the film, which has its New York premiere on Saturday, the plaintiffs allege that three decades of pollution from petrochemical sludge dumped by Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, have created a dead zone the size of Rhode Island and resulted in skyrocketing rates of birth defects and cancer, especially leukemia. Chevron has fought the lawsuit, claiming the case was cooked up by greedy "environmental con men" and blames the state-owned Petroecuador, which took over the country's oil production in 1990.

As much as "Crude" sympathizes with the plaintiffs (the film's hero, Pablo Fajardo, their lead lawyer, once worked in the oil fields), it isn't a starkly black-and-white David and Goliath story. We hear from scientists, lawyers for both sides, Ecuadorean judges, celebrity activists (Trudie Styler and Sting) and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who has sided with the plaintiffs in a case that may drag on for decades. These real characters and events play out on the screen like a sprawling legal thriller.

This film is timely – in the past few weeks Chevron's problem in Ecuador has become a huge issue for the company. Chevron has been faced with concerns from shareholders, activists, and the general public, as CEO David O'Reilly has been faced with constant questions about Chevron's human rights policies: more than $37 billion worth of Chevron stock defied O'Reilly and voted for a resolution calling for a comprehensive human rights, NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo opened an investigation into potential violations of securities laws, a slate of media stories exposing the company's deep exposure to the potential Ecuador liability, and a rising tide of concerns about a lack of independent oversight from the Chevron Board of Directors.

With this level of interest in Chevron's problems, we expect that Crude will open to a ton of interest from people clamoring to get an inside view of what is really happening with Chevron's Ecuadorian legacy.