Sundance Film Festival

Festival Updates My Premiere: CRUDE

Director Joe Berlinger’s CRUDE, a film participating in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival about the environmental degradation of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

CRUDE
DIRECTOR: Joe Berlinger
U.S.A., 2009, 100 min., color
English and Spanish with English subtitles

Can 30,000 plaintiffs from five Indigenous Ecuadoran tribes find justice from Chevron, one of the world’s largest oil producers? Who is responsible for the unconscionable dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste in the Ecuadoran Amazon, poisoning the most biodiverse place on the planet?

Filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s latest documentary picks up the thread of the infamous “Amazon Chernobyl” case, a 13-year-old battle between communities nearly destroyed by oil drilling and development and one of the biggest companies on earth. In a sophisticated take on the classic David and Goliath story, Berlinger took three years to craft a cinema vérité portrait centering on the charismatic lawyers in the U.S. and Ecuador who have doggedly pursued the case against all of the forces a corporation can bring into courts of law.

Though the Ecuadorans receive the lion’s share of screen time, the film makes a concerted effort to show the case from all sides: from the scientists and lawyers employed by Chevron, to Ecuadoran judges, to celebrity activists and humanitarian organizers, to the media, to the dramatic intervention of Rafael Correa himself, the first Ecuadoran president to sympathize with the Indigenous perspective.

In a tale that spans the globe, Crude looks beyond compassion for the disenfranchised and the corruption of those in power to ask how justice itself is being defined in the twenty-first century. —CARA MERTES