Reviewer: M.K. Abissath (MA Student AES)
Duration: 1 hr 90 MN
Director: Joe Berlinger
The film is a true story of $27 Billion Legal Battle which ended in $8.6 Billion Verdict victory for over 300 00 poor victims of some rural communities in Ecuador against Chevron for Polluting their environment. It was based on an investigative journalism work in the heart of the Amazon Rain-forest where land and rivers were contaminated by Texaco/Chevron oil companies from America. The result was that babies whose mothers drank water from these rivers started developing skin, liver, kidney cancers and other deadly diseases even before they were born. The movie was shown to us in class by our Environmental Studies Professor Dr Murat Arsel on Friday, 21 February 2014 as part of his lecture. But before he clicked the mouse, he warned us about some of the scenes of hard core ‘brutalities’ and ‘fatalities’ which could extract tears from the eyes of even those who eat the head of a tortoise.
The Cruelty of “CRUDE”
The movie opens with an octogenarian woman with an angelic voice. This traditional old beauty has decorated her face with a pink flower with a long stem piercing through her nose horizontally across. She was lonely and lamenting in her song. The song was interpreted thus: “We live upon the river with rich clear water…but with arrival of the contamination…my brothers are now dead and I am the only survivor of my family.” This sorrowful grieving poor old woman’s lamentation is just the tip of the iceberg of the hardships and suffering of the people of the rural community in Ecuador.
The theme bothers on environmental criminalities of some foreign oil companies who place premium on profit than human life. It further depicts how industrial capitalism has no regard for ecological sustainability. Their goal is profit and profit; nothing but profit damn the environmental consequences. “CRUDE” is a film that must be watched globally for the edification of all countries where oil and gas have been discovered and have just started or about to start exploration like Ghana.
What the oil companies did in Ecuador cannot only be termed as unethical or immoral. That will be tantamount to glorifying them for their infanticide and homicide. In traditional Africa, even before you slaughter a fowl for your meal, you are obligated to give it water. Apart from polluting and contaminating rivers and water bodies in the Amazon Rain-forests the oil companies deliberately dug dip and large holes or trenches in various parts of the forest and buried their industrial and chemical wastes in them. Some of the holes were covered and others left for weeds to cover them. They created canals or drains from the oil fields taking the wastes directly into these with careless abandon.
If slavery was described as ‘inhumanity of man against man,’ then this ecological criminality of Texaco/Chevron against the people of Ecuador was worse than slavery. It would have been better if the oil companies had forcefully removed all the poor people from their villages and dumped them in some desert to fight for their own survival rather than going to poison their rivers and burying industrial waste in the belly of their soil. Now it is not only children, youth, adults, elderly and other living creatures including animals and birds that are dying but unborn babies are already traumatized and rendered vegetables even before they see day light. It means it is not only the present generations that are being poisoned and exterminated but there will be no future generations at all. That is the difference between ‘CRUDE’ and slavery. While the latter had left some descendants who could tell the story of their ancestors the former has no future generations at all to narrate their ordeals to anybody.
Another pertinent issue the film brought to the fore was the socio-economic, political and cultural corruption of capitalism. Almost all the characters involved in the film, ranging from judges, lawyers, office workers, were all incriminated in one way or another in corruption through bribery, dishonesty, twisting of fats to suite one’s whims and caprices were the order of the day. In one scene lawyers of the plaintiffs and those of Chevron were seen physically in brawls in court or out of court rooms.
The roles played by the Environmental NGOs or activists in fighting for the rights of the poor victims were phenomenal. The media played a central role starting with the investigative journalism leading to the disclosure of this heinous crime against the poor people of Ecuador. In one of the scenes the power of the media was deployed in promotional, publicity and awareness creation by inviting some celebrities from the UK or the US. These were flown by helicopters into the Amazon Rain-forest to see things for themselves. The media covered these events for the global audience. And the effect was overwhelming. This strategy led to fund raising activities for the provision of storage of rain waters in huge plastic tanks for the consumption of the people. This and other water purification equipment were supplied to the rural poor to prevent them from drinking contaminated river water for their health sake. In fact, the Director of the Film Mr. Joe Berlinger is a master of the game.
The object of this review is to highlight some of the ethical and moral issue underscored in the film. But I cannot end it without acknowledging the behind the scene roles played by some of our Professors of ISS. Besides classroom lecturing some of these Professors are engaged in various environmental and agricultural projects in various parts of the developing world. For instance, in December 2013, Professor Jun Borras also showed us a film about Land grabbing in Mozambique where he and others were using their expertise in assisting the disadvantaged in some developing countries.
In this particular film “CRUDE” our own Professor Murat Arsel told us he is currently involved in a project where the victims of the environmental catastrophe in Ecuador are being provided with some scientific and technological equipment where he is assisting some field workers in training the local people how to detect the level of contamination in water to prevent the people from being poisoned. Again, although it was American companies that were involved the environment destruction of Ecuador in the first place it also took some other American legal brains to fight the cause of the helpless victims. This explains why the legal victory of the case was seen as a victory for humanity. But the perpetrators of this environmental suicide and their cohorts must bow their heads in shame!
Watch “CRUDE” here < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSonToHe8i4>
Story by Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath (Mawu)