Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the journey of his Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime.
For three weeks in September 2008, one person was charged with preventing the collapse of the global economy. No one understood the financial markets better than Hank Paulson, the former ... See full summary »
A documentary crew followed Metallica for the better part of 2001-2003, a time of tension and release for the rock band, as they recorded their album St. Anger, fought bitterly, and sought the counsel of their on-call shrink.
This documentary by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky details the murder trial of Delbert Ward. Delbert was a member of a family of four elderly brothers, working as semi-literate farmers ... See full summary »
In the spring of 2002, filmmaker Joe Berlinger traveled to Vienna to witness the burial of the preserved brains of over 700 children killed at a Nazi "euthanasia" clinic. GRAY MATTER ... See full summary »
Each year in America, 85% of inmates seeking early release will be denied, but 15% will be released from prison before serving their full sentences. Two thirds of these parolees will commit... See full summary »
One of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet. An inside look at the infamous $27 billion "Amazon Chernobyl" case, CRUDE is a real-life high stakes legal drama set against a backdrop of the environmental movement, global politics, celebrity activism, human rights advocacy, the media, multinational corporate power, and rapidly-disappearing indigenous cultures. Presenting a complex situation from multiple viewpoints, the film examines a complicated situation from several angles while bringing a story of environmental peril and human suffering into focus. Written by
Footage not included in the documentary was later used as evidence of fraud on behalf of the plaintiffs in US courts. See more »
Protester at 2008 Chevron Shareholders meeting:
[Protester at 2008 Chevron Shareholders meeting]
In Ecuador as in Nigeria, as in Richmond, as in Iraq, as in Burma, this company chose profit over people. It's clear that this company has no moral responsibility, no ethics. And that's why we're all here.
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the bittersweet, harrowing David & Goliath battle goes on
In Joe Berlinger's film Crude, we're privy to a situation that has spiraled out of control and how a battle is waging between lawyers on two sides. On one side are the Ecuadorians who in 1993 filed a lawsuit against Texaco (now Chevron) for their hazardous practices while drilling for oil by spilling all over (ultimately far more than Exxon Valdez) and contaminating the water that the locals drank and bathed in. They sought (still seek, actually) just some responsibility, something on their end that "hey, we screwed up, we'll clean it up," and eventually in recent years given representation by Pablo Fajardo, a tough Ecuadorian lawyer, and some American back-up lawyers.
On the other side, of course, are the corporate lawyers for Chevron, who claim two contradictory things: there's the Chevron environment scientist who says that there is no contamination, the people are getting cancer from other things, no sewage treatment, people get sick all the time, etc, don't blame us - and there's the local Chevron Ecuadorian lawyers who say, 'yeah, there is contamination, but not by us, look at Petro-Ecuador, who came after we left, it's all them.' It comes down to a blame game that, finally, after years of struggle, gets to a trial level in Ecuador. But this, as we see in Crude, has its problems too - not least of which from corruption in the law system, and judge(s) inundated with information to process from the case.
What makes Crude so powerful a document, and an indictment of a mighty beast like an oil corporation that is in fact one of the largest corporations in the world, is that Berlinger doesn't need to amp up the agitprop. We see the Chevron scientist or lawyers try their best to describe how things aren't bad, or so bad, or that it's not their fault, and all Berlinger has to do is show the local Ecuadorians living right by the water, too poor to move or to be able to get enough money form their livestock who die off immediately (and asking "where are all the fish" answers itself), the mother who has two children lost to cancer, and shots, very straightforward, of, yes, contaminated oil wells and ponds and places that no one should have to put up with. Berlinger gets his best material from these horrid images, set against the backdrop of an otherwise gorgeous Amazon jungle and rain-forest.
It's also a gripping legal drama, and one that we see gains some public-attention traction following a Vanity Fair article in their 'Green Issue' and a subsequent interest from Trudie Styler and her husband Sting (more so Styler, who goes to Ecuador and sees the anguish of the people and the sites of the oil spills). But one may be filled with a possibly cynical sense of dread; for all of the hope one may have in this case, that David will for once beat Goliath and that the things the American lawyer are saying will come true, it's real life and not the movies (albeit as a movie here) and it's nail-biting to see how it will turn out, that despite all of the attention and media buzz thanks to Sting, it won't work out for the Ecuadorians because, well, it's a damn oil monster they're up against.
As it turns out, it's really a credit to Berlinger and his crew that he can present such a story with a clear eye and head and, indeed, be fair on both sides (granted, there is only so much access an oil company in litigation will give to a low-budget documentarian), and lets the audience see what the case is all about. And, perhaps expectedly, the ultimate bittersweet note by the end is that of a double-sided coin: an independent investigator may find overwhelming proof of contamination and the need for compensation for the victims and people and lands... but the case still needs to end, and as it stands, the investigation is ongoing. It's a harrowing saga of human rights.
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