Crude

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Why? Because it’s thick with sludge. Moving briskly through a stranger-than-fiction, serpentine narrative that is still unfolding, Joe Berlinger’s remarkable documentary Crude recounts an infuriating litany of South American exploitation, backroom glad-handing and bureaucratic dead ends that, among other collateral damages, created a Rhode Island-sized “death zone” of toxic pollution in the middle of the Ecuadorean Amazon. For nearly 30 years, beginning in the mid-1960s, the former Texaco company (acquired by Chevron in 2001) drilled for oil in Ecuador, in and around the ancestral homeland of the indigenous Cofán Indian community. In 1992, Texaco finally lost its government-granted concession and was forced to cede control of its drilling sites to state-owned Petroecuador. Three years later, Texaco conducted a purported “environmental remediation” as part of a $40 million settlement with the Ecuadorean government that indemnified the company against any further government claims. And yet, the soil and waters of the area still run black with oil, the Cofán are dying of cancer at an alarming rate, and the buck for this environmental disaster is being passed between Chevron and Petroecuador. A master of true-crime verité, Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost) does a superb job of taking us through the twists and turns of the decade-and-a-half, multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit filed by the Cofán against Chevron — with no discernible end in sight.

Categories: Movies