I consider myself a generally well-informed person, but I have to say that I had known little or nothing about the case of an American oil company being sued in South America for massive environmental pollution. When I heard the news, though, that the American oil company in question, Chevron, successfully lobbied a U.S. judge recently to turn over to the oil company 600 hours of footage from the making of this documentary, I knew I had to find out what it is that Chevron is trying to censor. I immediately bought this DVD on Amazon.
Having watched it a few times, I now understand. And so will you, if you should decide to do the same and purchase this excellent documentary.
Hats off to director Joe Berlinger and crew for following this case over a few years and putting together a testament to the truth that any oil company would be afraid to let see the light of day. "Crude" deserves all the awards and recognition that it has been getting, and more.
The story centers around the Texaco oil corporation and its drilling for oil in the pristine jungles of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador from the 1960s to the 1990s. Many of the native Ecuadoran people living there at the time Texaco first arrived had never seen a helicopter before, let alone known about the rich deposits of oil deep beneath their soil, but they learned quickly when they started seeing oil spills on their clear, clean rivers caused by the American oil company's drilling.
By the time Texaco was basically kicked out of Ecuador in the 1990s, the corporation had left behind in the Ecudoran forests hundreds of toxic waste pits, many of which were designed to drain polluted water into nearby rivers and streams. Many of those poisonous waste pits have remained open for years, despite the fact that desperately poor people in the Amazon forest region live near these waterways and depend on the rivers and streams to live.
Add a class-action lawsuit by indigenous Ecuadorans against Chevron (which bought Texaco in 2001), a young, aggressive Ecuadoran lawyer (Pablo Fajardo) whose brother was brutally murdered after he took up the case, a pushy and determined gringo lawyer from the United States (Steven Donziger) siding with the indigenous Amazonians, and judges and a new president of Ecuador who can't be bought off, and you have the makings of a classic Hollywood "David vs. Goliath" story.
But in this case, the story happens to be true. And it is that dirty truth that oil companies like Chevron want to keep from the public -- especially the American public.
Although the director makes it clear from the outset which side of the issue he stands on, he is to be commended for getting Chevron officials interviewed on the record. It makes the documentary that much more balanced and impressive. And if you've never seen a scientist or a lawyer for a multinational oil corporation look you in the eye and lie through their teeth about the toxic effects of petroleum drilling and dumping in the environment, then you're in for a real eye-opener.
For all its seriousness, the film does have its lighter moments too: One is when a Chevron lawyer, during one of the Chevron/Texaco waste site inspections in Ecuador ordered as part of the lawsuit, insists that petroleum waste becomes safe and non-toxic when it is released into nature -- and gets more than a few snickers from the local villagers whose lives with cancer attest otherwise. Then there is the good-natured bantering between the American lawyer and his Ecuadoran counterparts working on the lawsuit against Chevron, who somehow manage to keep from getting on each others' nerves long enough to fight a common battle for justice in the U.S. and Ecuadoran courts.
I always judge a documentary not only by its visual appeal but also by its audio appeal. "Crude" comes through well on that score too, with a soundtrack of beautiful South American (presumably Ecuadoran) music to help make an already great documentary that much better.
But the real star is the Amazon rainforest itself, still breathtaking to see even with all the environmental raping it has gone through on the part of Chevron/Texaco. The native Amazonian tribes are struggling to hold on to what little they have left in the "dead zones" of the Amazon rainforest where Chevron/Texaco once ruled supreme, and one cannot help but be filled with awe and respect for the strength these simple people show in seeking to stay alive in their traditional homelands without getting poisoned on a daily basis by oil and petroleum waste.
Knowledge is indeed power, and having watched this documentary I understand much more clearly what is happening, for example, with the British Petroleum oil spill that has already devastated much of the U.S. southern coastline. This kind of massive oil pollution and contamination is the future, folks, unless we arm ourselves with knowledge and truth and stop it.
We may not have the authority to set national government policy or be able to gain an audience with an oil company CEO, but what we *can* do as consumers is empower ourselves with knowledge and arm ourselves with truth -- because for all its sheer arrogance and bluster in this film, Chevron/Texaco and other corporate crooks like it don't stand a chance against informed, knowledgeable citizens. And that is one reason why Chevron still intends to get its grimy hands on those 600 hours of raw footage that shaped this movie, "Crude", by Joe Berlinger, despite the filmmaker's ongoing appeal for protection of freedom of the press and speech under the U.S. Constitution.
Buy this DVD -- today -- and make your own small but worthy investment in a future society that puts corporate polluters right where they belong: behind bars and on "corporate chain gangs" to clean up their own environmental catastrophes. Chevron/Texaco, for one, will not be happy that you purchased this film right here on (ahem) Amazon.