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'Crude' documentary explores Ecuador versus Chevron case

September 18, 2009 |  9:03 am

"Crude" sounds like the standard "this is an outrage" environmental degradation documentary, the latest in a line that includes "An Inconvenient Truth" and films about the death of the ocean, the evaporation of water, the murder of dolphins, even the disintegration of dirt. "Crude" fits that bill, but it is something considerably more interesting as well, writes Kenneth Turan.

The outrage in question is the subject of a class-action suit filed by 30,000 citizens of Ecuador against Chevron, the world's fifth-largest corporation, alleging that 18 billion gallons of toxic waste-water were dumped into the Amazon between 1972 and 1990, fatally poisoning the land and water and sickening inhabitants. The lawsuit, with a potential cost to Chevron of $27 billion, has been going on for so long, 16 years and counting, that the original American oil company in Ecuador, Texaco, was acquired by Chevron and no longer exists.

Director Joe Berlinger ("Brother's Keeper," "Metallica") has been working on "Crude" for three years, and though he feared he was coming too late to the story, a verdict is still not in sight. Having all that time to explore the situation has paid off for Berlinger, enabling him to gain the confidence of his subjects and show us situations that ordinarily would not be open to outsiders.

Read the rest of this movie review here, and click here for more posts about films and documentaries.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Video: The official "Crude" trailer.

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