• CRUDE shows battle to hold oil giant accountable for the 'Amazon Chernobyl'
NEW YORK, NY, Sept. 1, 2009 -- An award-winning new documentary about the struggle over Chevron's massive contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon premieres theatrically at the IFC Center in New York on Sept. 9th and plays until the 22nd, followed by runs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and thirty-six more cities across the country.
Amazon Watch, a U.S. based organization that is featured in the film, is leading efforts to promote the film in conjunction with its Clean Up Ecuador Campaign, which works in solidarity with the affected communities in the Amazon. Across the country, screenings of the film will feature filmmakers and activists involved in the case. Amazon Watch is using the film's release to build an ever-growing grassroots coalition of environmental, human rights, and social justice organizations to keep the issues raised in the film in the public spotlight. Elected officials, celebrities, and community leaders are also throwing their support behind the call for justice and environmental cleanup in Ecuador.
"CRUDE shows the truth Chevron doesn't want the world to see," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch. "The film is a balanced look at all sides of this monumental case but in the end, the truth is clearly on the side of the communities who are demanding justice from Chevron." In a memorable scene in CRUDE, Ms. Soltani diffuses a brief confrontation with a police officer who attempts to stop her and two Ecuadorian indigenous representatives as they enter a Chevron shareholder's meeting in Houston.
Three years in the making by acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost, and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), CRUDE chronicles the epic battle to hold oil giant Chevron (formerly Texaco) accountable for its systematic contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon -- an environmental tragedy experts call the "Amazon Chernobyl," and believe is the worst case of oil-related contamination on the planet.
CRUDE centers on a landmark lawsuit filed by the indigenous and campesino communities in Ecuador who continue to suffer a severe public health crisis caused by Chevron's contamination. CRUDE is a high-stakes David vs. Goliath legal drama with 30,000 Amazon rainforest dwellers facing down the 5th largest corporation in the world.
Texaco -- which merged with Chevron in 2001 -- deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into Amazon waterways and abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits filled with oil sludge. Indigenous groups in the area say Chevron's contamination has decimated their traditional lifestyles and caused an outbreak of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and other health problems never before seen in the rainforest.
The trial documented in CRUDE is nearing an end, with Chevron facing a potential $27 billion damages claim that would be enforceable in the United States, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The amount of damages was determined by an independent, court-appointed expert who relied primarily on Chevron's own scientific data to draw his conclusions. If the court accepts the damages assessment, Chevron could be hit with the largest judgment ever in an environmental lawsuit.
Chevron's contamination has also captured the attention of the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama. In 2005, then-Senator Obama and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked the Bush Administration to reject efforts by Chevron to undermine the case via a lobbying campaign in Washington. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) toured the contaminated area last fall with his congressional staff and sponsored hearings about the situation before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which he co-chairs. And in June, four Democratic Senators -- Ron Wyden (OR), Richard Durbin (IL), Robert Casey (PA), and Patrick Leahy -- wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, urging him to "allow the legal proceedings in Ecuador to take their course without any undue intervention from the U.S. government," a reference to Chevron's lobbying efforts to cut trade benefits for Ecuador in retaliation over this lawsuit.
"With the release of the film Crude, Chevron goes on trial in the court of public opinion. Despite Chevron's current attempts to confuse the public with misinformation and obstruct justice in Ecuador, CRUDE allows the audience to be the judge and decide for themselves how much responsibility Chevron bears for the ecological and public health crisis in the Ecuadorian Amazon," said Mitchell Anderson, Corporate Accountability Campaigner for the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign.
About Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch works 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.
In August 2002, Amazon Watch launched the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign to support the demands of indigenous and farming communities affected by the operations of Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The campaign's three principal demands of Chevron are that the company:
- Fund and implement a major environmental clean-up
- Compensate local communities for health and environmental impacts
- Provide affected communities with real access to health care and potable water
For more information about Amazon Watch's campaign, visit: www.ChevronToxico.com/crude
For more information about Crude, visit www.crudethemovie.com