Joe Berlinger’s Crude: the Real Price of Oil is bold and courageous filmmaking and although the subject matter is heavy, it is worthwhile to bear.
The film opens to an Ecuadorean woman singing about the day “the company” came to her town and destroyed it. “What will happen to the children?” she asks. “What will become of my people?” She is her family’s sole survivor.
In 1993, 30,000 Ecuadoreans filed a class action lawsuit against Texaco (now Chevron). The film takes place 15 years later: some of those people have died, some have gotten sick or sicker and some children have been born with deformities. After long delays, the case is finally getting under way.
Two-time Emmy Award winner Berlinger has crafted a film with gorgeous shots of the Amazon jungle, the villages of Ecuador and the townspeople. The images quickly turn heartbreaking when the devastation and destruction that has come to the villages become obvious.
The trial takes place in Ecuador and it is interesting to see their system, so different than Canada’s, at work. The first phase of the trial is a kind of field trip: the judge, lawyers and plaintiffs go to the sites where the alleged wrongdoings have occurred. It plays out like a courtroom drama outside a courtroom, with both sides arguing against each other and pleading with the court to see things their way. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Pablo Fajardo, is an angel of sorts: his sincerity and determination are inspiring. Chevron’s attorneys play the blame game, first stating that there has been no damage, then claiming that it was at the hands of another company.
Early into the film, it is undeniable that what has happened in the Ecuadorian Amazon at the hands of Texaco is due to nothing short of excessive greed by a giant taking advantage of the little, poor and weak. A villager recounting those first few months back in 1993 claims that the first oil spill very quickly brought drastic changes to the villagers’ lifestyles. Animals started disappearing and the water was basically unusable.
Crude tells a story that needs to be told and that will have you wondering how something like this could be allowed to happen.
Crude: the Real Price of Oil screens at Cinema du Parc on March 26 at 9 p.m. and March 27 and April 1 at 7 p.m.