Three years in the making, this cinéma-vérité feature from acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet. The inside story of the infamous “Amazon Chernobyl” case, Crude is a real-life high stakes legal drama, set against a backdrop of the environmental movement, global politics, celebrity activism, human rights advocacy, the media, multinational corporate power, and rapidly-disappearing indigenous cultures. Presenting a complex situation from multiple viewpoints, the film subverts the conventions of advocacy filmmaking, exploring a complicated situation from all angles while bringing an important story of environmental peril and human suffering into focus.
The landmark case takes place in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, pitting 30,000 indigenous and colonial rainforest dwellers against the U.S. oil giant Chevron. The plaintiffs claim that Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – spent three decades systematically contaminating one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, poisoning the water, air and land. The plaintiffs allege that the pollution has created a “death zone” in an area the size of the Rhode Island, resulting in increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and a multiplicity of other health ailments. They further allege that the oil operations in the region contributed to the destruction of indigenous peoples and irrevocably impacted their traditional way of life. Chevron vociferously fights the claims, charging that the case is a complete fabrication, perpetrated by “environmental con men” who are seeking to line their pockets with the company’s billions.
The case takes place not just in a courtroom, but in a series of field inspections at the alleged contamination sites, with the judge and attorneys for both sides trudging through the jungle to litigate. And the battleground has expanded far beyond the legal process. The cameras rolled as the conflict raged in and out of court, and the case drew attention from an array of celebrities, politicians and journalists, and landed on the cover of Vanity Fair. Some of the film’s subjects sparked further controversy as they won a CNN “Hero” award and the Goldman Award, the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Shooting in dozens of locations on three continents and in multiple languages, Berlinger and his crew gained extraordinary access to players on all sides of the legal fight and beyond, capturing the drama as it unfolded while the case grew from a little-known legal story to an international cause célèbre. Crude is a ground-level view of one of the most extraordinary legal dramas of our time, one that has the potential of forever changing the way international business is conducted. While the environmental impact of the consumption of fossil fuels has been increasingly documented in recent years, Crude focuses on the human cost of our addiction to oil and the increasingly difficult task of holding a major corporation accountable for its past deeds.
The Water Project – UNICEF Ambassador Trudie Styler witnessed the environmental damage caused by oil exploitation and the devastating impact that the damage and lack of safe water was having on rural communities. This project provides and manages water containers to families in areas with severe health needs and minimal access to clean water.
The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador – Supports the demands of indigenous and farming communities affected by the operations of Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Amazon Watch – Working to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin, we partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems.
Rainforest Foundation Fund - Founded in 1989, Rainforest Foundation Fund supports indigenous and traditional people of the rainforest to protect their environment and fulfill their rights. We work at the intersection of environmental conservation and human rights and in full partnership with indigenous and traditional forest communities who are effective guardians of the rainforests they call home.
Human Rights Watch – One of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice.
The Amazon Defense Coalition – A part of a regional, national and global struggle for environmental and collective rights in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Causecast – A platform where media, philanthropy, social networking, entertainment and education converge to serve a greater purpose.
EarthRights International – The power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment.
Global Green USA – Working to address some of the greatest challenges facing humanity, our work in the United States is primarily focused on stemming global climate change by creating green buildings and cities.
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice – Mobilizing community power to win victories that change government and corporate policies and practices to protect health and to promote environmental justice.
Oil Change International – Campaigning to expose the true costs of oil and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy.
Oxfam America – Together with individuals and local groups in more than 100 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice. An affiliate of Oxfam International.
Pachamama Alliance – Preserving the Earth’s tropical rainforests by empowering the indigenous people who are its natural custodians, and contributing to the creation of a new global vision of equity and sustainability for all.
Rainforest Action Network – Campaigning for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action.
WITNESS – Using video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations; empowering people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.
Crude Accountability – Works with local activists and citizen groups in the Caspian Sea basin to protect the region’s natural environment and to ensure environmental justice for communities impacted by natural resource development.
Do Something – Believes you have the power to make a difference. It is our aim to inspire, support and celebrate a generation of doers: people who see the need to do something, believe in their ability to get it done, and then take action.
Cultural Survival – Cultural Survival partners with indigenous communities to defend their rights and sustain their cultures. Our programs get the knowledge, advocacy tools, and strategic partnerships local communities need and are designed to become self-sustaining and run entirely by the indigenous community.
Kripalu – The largest and most established retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America. Promotes the principles of yoga as a basis for a making a difference in the world.