Film Review: Crude

A dramatic legal showdown in the Amazon rainforest pits indigenous Ecuadorians against Chevron.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


In this fascinating follow-up to his 2004 rockumentary, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, director Joe Berlinger captures a dramatic legal showdown in the Amazon rainforest. Berlinger spent three years following a marathon multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit in which thousands of indigenous Ecuadorians are suing Chevron for polluting their water and land, causing a wave of sickness and death. (The suit, now in its 16th year, was originally filed against Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001.) “Water is the life blood of the Cofán people,” explains an indigenous leader. “They came and spilled oil, contaminated the river, and my children died.”

Yet Crude isn’t your standard David vs. Goliath environmental film. It takes a sweeping approach, weaving together stories of the indigenous people and the lawyers fighting on their behalf, particularly a charismatic young Ecuadorian named Pablo Fajardo. The film’s most riveting legal moments take place in the rainforest itself, where lawyers make passionate open-air arguments during an inspection of alleged contamination sites. “When I say something, they have to think a thousand times to come up with a lie to counter my truth,” Fajardo says of the oil company’s lawyers. “They have to think much harder than me.”

Even as he takes pains to show how oil drilling has ravaged the lives of the rainforest dwellers, Berlinger lets Chevron tell its side of the story. The oil giant blames Ecuador‘s state oil company, which briefly ran the oil fields in the ’90s, yet also claims there is no evidence of any health effects. Its lawyers suggest that their scrappy opposing counsel just wants a piece of the potential payoff. Recognizing the complexity of the case, Berlinger doesn’t take sides, but Crude leaves no doubt that oil and justice don’t mix.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate