Crude (2009 film)
|Directed by||Joe Berlinger|
|Produced by||Joe Berlinger
|Music by||Wendy Blackstone|
Juan Diego Pérez
|Edited by||Alyse Ardell Spiegel|
|Distributed by||Entendre Films
Red Envelope Entertainment
Third Eye Motion Picture
First Run Features
The film follows the progress during 2006 and 2007 of a $27 billion legal case brought against the Chevron Corporation following the drilling of the Lago Agrio oil field, a case described by activists as an “Amazon Chernobyl”.
The plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit are 30,000 Ecuadorians living in the Amazonian rainforest who claim their ancestral homeland has been polluted by the oil industry. In addition to the legal struggle, Crude shows interviews from representatives of the plaintiffs and defendants of the class action lawsuit, and explores the influence of media support such as Vanity Fair, celebrity activism including support from musical artist Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, the power of multinational corporations, the shifting power in Ecuadorian politics, and rapidly disappearing indigenous cultures explored in the movie.
The film ends with a prediction the lawsuit will not be resolved for another decade or so unless an out of court settlement is arranged.
- Juan Diego Perez
- Pocho Alvarez
- Joe Berlinger (producer of Crude)
- Michael Bonfiglio
- Sting (activist, artist and co-founder of Rainforest Foundation Fund)
- Trudie Styler (activist, producer, and co-founder of Rainforest Foundation Fund with her husband Sting)
- Adolfo Callejas (Ecuadorian lawyer on behalf of Chevron-Texaco)
- Steven Donziger (American lawyer on behalf of the plaintiffs)
- Pablo Fajardo (Ecuadorian lawyer on behalf of the plaintiffs)
- Diego Larrea (Ecuadorian Lawyer on behalf of Chevron-Texaco)
- Rafael Correa (President of the Republic of Ecuador)
- Sara McMillen (Chief Environmental Scientist for Chevron)
- Ricardo Reis Veiga (Corporate counsel for Chevron Latin America)
Subpoena of footage
Chevron noted that a scene in the film Crude presented at the Sundance Film Festival, showed an environmental scientist present at a legal strategy meeting of plaintiffs’ lawyers; that same scientist was later appointed by the Ecuadorian court as an ostensibly impartial expert to write a report on technical issues. However, the scene was cut from the theatrical release; Chevron lawyers wanted to know what other potentially compromising scenes were left out by Berlinger. On May 6, 2010 federal judge Lewis Kaplan sided with a petition submitted by Chevron and ruled that Berlinger turn over more than 600 hours of original footage created during the film's production. Chevron had sought to subpoena the footage as part of the ongoing lawsuit discussed in the film. Berlinger's legal team has maintained that the footage is protected by reporters' privilege and appealed the court's decision.
In his appeal, Berlinger noted that he was a highly awarded and respected independent filmmaker, that he was independent of Donziger, and argued that he had in fact gone to great lengths to make Crude a balanced portrayal. Beringer acknowledged that he had “tweaked” some scenes at Donziger’s request. The scene showing the environmental scientist at the legal strategy session had been cut from the theatrical release (but not the online version for Netflix) after one of the plaintiff lawyers objected to Berlinger that showing the scene was “so serious we could lose everything.” The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed the scope slightly (Berlinger had to turn over 500 hours of outtakes, rather than 600), but in 2011 upheld the lower court ruling against Berlinger, Judge Pierre Leval writing for the court: “Those who do not retain independence as to what they will publish but are subservient to the objectives of others who have a stake in what will be published have either a weaker privilege or none at all,” 
The evidence provided by the film outtakes played an important role in Chevron obtaining a 2014 US court ruling that the American lawyers for the plaintiffs had used fraud and corruption in obtaining the $19 billion Ecuadorian court judgment against Chevron.
As of 23 March 2010, the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave Crude a 95% "fresh" rating.
Film festivals (partial list)
- Sundance Film Festival, United States
- San Francisco International Film Festival, United States
- SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, United States
- Sydney Film Festival, Australia
- One World Film Festival, Czech Republic
- Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Greece
- Independent Film Festival of Boston, United States
- Cleveland International Film Festival, United States
- True/False Film Festival, United States
- Nashville Film Festival, United States
- Newport Beach Film Festival, United States
- Little Rock Film Festival, United States
- Jacksonville Film Festival, United States
- Sarasota Film Festival, United States
- Lake Placid Film Festival, United States
- Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, United States
- Amazonia for Sale
- The Coconut Revolution
- MSNCBC/AP "Up to $16 billion fine against Chevron advised", April 8, 2008.
- Crude at the Internet Movie Database
- New York Times, 6 May 2010, Judge Rules that Filmmaker Must Give Footage to Chevron
- Joe Berlinger, In Re: Application of Chevron. Declaration of Joe Berlinger, 27 May 2010.
- David Folkenflik, A 'Crude' awakening: Chevron Vs. The documentarian, NPR, 4 June 2010.
- Tom Isler, What ‘Chevron Corp. v. Donziger’ continues to get wrong about documentary filmmaking, Penn Law, Penn Program on Documentaries and the law, 29 March 2014.
- Clifford Krauss, “Big victory for Chevron over claims in Ecuador,” New York Times, 4 March 2014.
- New York Times, 22 January 2009, In the Snows of Sundance, a Marked Chill in the Air
- AlterNet, 26 August 2009, 'Crude': The Film Chevron Doesn't Want You to See
- Official website
- Crude at the Internet Movie Database
- Joe Berlinger interview at Sundance Channel
- Crude court order video report at Democracy Now!