Starring: Pablo Fajardo, Steven Donziger, Trudie Styler
Directed by: Joe Berlinger (“Metallica: Some Kind of Monster”)
When asked to get involved in an environmental cause, documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger not only listened, he dug as deep as he possibly could. What he uncovered was not necessarily an unheard story, but one that few people outside South America were aware was taking place. When his film “Crude” was completed, it wasn’t a subject that could be taken lightly any longer.
In “Crude,” Berlinger follows the landmark legal battle between the Chevron/Texaco Corporations and the over 30,000 native Ecuadorians who claim to have been systematically poisoned by the big oil companies over the past 50 years. In an area known as “Amazon Chernobyl,” 18 billion tons of toxic waste has been dumped in the rainforest and no one wants to take responsibility for the devastation it has produced.
While the impoverished people of the country suffer from debilitating diseases because of the thick black sludge that covers their land and water supply, Chevron/Texaco and their smug lawyers make for an adequate antagonist to root against although the director himself doesn’t choose sides.
Although it is a difficult assignment, Berlinger stays as balanced as he can and presents his case without motive. Instead, the director who is behind such films as “Brother’s Keeper,” “Paradise Lost,” and “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” allows the human element to become the focus of the gripping geopolitical drama. In doing so, “Crude” never becomes an activist-driven commercial urging viewers to save the environment.
“Crude” may be an unscripted documentary, but Berlinger takes the limitless information he inherited when he stepped into the project and has constructed a powerful story that could work as a feature film someday. Even if it ends here, Berlinger has delivered a disturbing tale of corporate greed and shown audiences what a passionate fight for justice can accomplish despite tragedies that have already occurred.