As the world struggles to absorb the devastating implications of the oil spill currently glugging untold barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, while the companies involved point fingers at each other and decline to fully admit their mistakes, another oil-related drama has been playing out in a federal court in New York.
Chevron, the oil giant at the center of Joe Berlinger’s documentary CRUDE, which opened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009, has petitioned the court to allow it to subpoena more than 600 hours of footage shot for his film. The film tells the story of a group of Ecuadoreans who are suing the oil company, contending that it poisoned their people by dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into their rivers and onto their land in what has become known as “Amazon Chernobyl.”
Chevron is seeking a dismissal of the suit, which has dragged on for years, and believes that the footage may help its case. But Berlinger’s attorneys have argued that the director should be offered the same privileges that all investigative journalists receive, allowing them to protect confidential sources and information. They insist that forcing him to turn over the footage would violate his rights under the First Amendment and constitute a breech of the confidentiality agreements he’d established with the people who appear in the film.
A little more than a week ago, the ruling came back.