The director of a film about oil does not have to turn over hundreds of hours of footage to Chevron, thanks to an appeals court ruling. Director Joe Berlinger’s investigative film Crude: The Real Price of Oil, documents part of an ongoing $27 billion class action lawsuit filed against Texaco (which is now part of Chevron) by Ecuadorian people over the pollution of their land, and the oil company wants his footage.
“Chevron recently served a subpoena on the makers of the feature documentary CRUDE in order to obtain nearly 600 hours of raw footage accumulated during the making of the film,” according to the film’s blog, and while “a US District Court ruled for Chevron” back in May, yesterday, “a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that Berlinger will be awarded a full hearing in July on his appeal, and as a result, the district court’s May 20th order directing Berlinger to produce the footage will be suspended during the pendency of the appeal.”
The filmmakers have requested donations to a defense fund, and the blog notes that it has received support from the DGA, the WGA, Norman Lear, Bill Moyers, Robert Redford, and others. The Los Angeles Times argued in an editorial that “forcing him to relinquish [the footage] turns the point of journalistic access on its head: If journalists must reveal what they learn but do not publish from those sources they cultivate most carefully, then sources will keep them at arms’ length. This nation is better off because [Upton] Sinclair was able to insinuate himself into Chicago’s meatpacking plants; it will be better again if Berlinger prevails on appeal. And it will be better still when Congress passes a federal shield law that protects journalists and their sources.”
The well-reviewed documentary is a “cinema-verite feature” that “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” while telling “[t]he inside story of the infamous ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ case,” according to its web site. It “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.”
Here’s the trailer for Crude, which takes on new meaning now that the Gulf of Mexico and the surrounding environment is being destroyed by the BP oil spill: