Ecuador vs. Big Oil in 'Crude'

LIZ BRAUN - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

Looking for another reason to leave your car at home?

Go see Crude.

The people of the Ecuadorean Amazon vs. Chevron/Texaco is a lawsuit that's been on-going for 16 years, and Crude is an inside look at this David and Goliath struggle. (It's sometimes called the Amazon Chernobyl case.)

This is an environmental documentary about what it means to people and places to take oil out of the ground, and what it seems to mean is polluted water, contaminated soil, cancers, skin diseases and the loss of entire indigenous populations.

Crude begins with a close focus on the Ecuadorean people who live in areas affected by the presence of Texaco. A Cofan woman sings of the death and destruction that has befallen her people; a man explains that life for the Cofan people is tied to the water, and that two of his children have died from exposure to that water.

There are thousands of square miles of Ecuadorean rain forest that have been polluted by oil mining, and the film does not shy away from showing footage of destruction, human or otherwise. It is estimated that a billion gallons of contaminant have poured into the land and water here.

Pablo Fajardo is the Ecuadorian lawyer who fights for the local populace in their fight against Texaco. (He was featured in the Vanity Fair Green issue of April, 2007, which has Leonardo DiCaprio on the cover.) Fajardo is an intense, articulate man who worked in the oil fields when he was 14. He witnessed for himself environmental disasters and injustice against the locals. He grew up in Shushufindi, where old oil pools are easy to find, and at one point the movie visits his brother's grave in that community. Fajardo says his brother was murdered, that there could be a connection to the lawsuit, and that he believes he himself was the intended victim.

Filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper) does not neglect to show the Texaco side of this argument, but you can certainly tell whose side he's on. The movie goes from Ecuador to the United States and to England as momentum picks up on the lawsuit. The American lawyer worries that there has been very little media exposure for the situation, but once people such as Trudie Styler and Sting get involved, the level of attention from the rest of the world increases.

And the election of President Correa doesn't hurt.

Crude has an edge-of-your-seat quality that's more thriller than documentary, and Berlinger manages to convey the life or death urgency of the Ecuadorean situation. This is, in many ways, a shocking film, and Berlinger's ability to connect the global dots is impressive.

It's not surprising to see how matters are eventually settled in Crude, but the film makes it clear that nobody has won anything yet. It is estimated that corporate stalling techniques and similar activities will mean another 10 years of litigation.

Crude is at the Bloor Cinema.

(This film is rated G)


Videos

Photos