Critic Consensus: Dynamic, tightly arranged, and deliberately provocative, Joe Berlinger's Crude is a sobering, enraging wake-up call.
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Critic Reviews for Crude
A bleak, necessarily incomplete tale, and suffers from a late intrusion by celebrity eco-botherer Trudi Styler. But with this gripping, angry film, Berlinger has put himself back on the side of the angels.
A gripping, multifaceted thriller about media politics, global economics, and legal infighting. Wherever your sympathies fall, this may teach you a lot about the way the modern world works.
One has to wonder if oil industry executives are concerned about the release of Joe Berlinger's damning documentary.
Well shows how a canny public relations campaign is a key part of legal strategy to even up the odds in the court of world opinion. . .But does not get below the surface.
Audience Reviews for Crude
"Crude" does give us an interesting process story, but the case it presents against Chevron is consistently weak, based on hearsay when we need health statistics, environmental lab results, maps and contract agreements between Chevron and PetroEcuador (the national oil company of Ecuador). After their joint oil exploration, a mess has been left, but which party is responsible for which oil pit? The film has no interest in finding out, preferring to just observe the theater.
If you watch this, dig a bit into PetroEcuador's environmental record. One article I found suggests they haven't "paid a dime" in cleanup even though they were responsible for over 1000 spills in the 5 years leading up to the footage we see in the film. Chevron spent 40 million dollars cleaning up before they left in the 90s. Chevron likely wanted the case moved to Ecuador because in 1998, the Ecuadorian government declared Chevron's environmental remediation was completed according to the agreed terms and released them from any future liability in the country. However, google "Ecuador's Assault on Free Speech" and you'll get a NYTimes article covering President Correa's manipulation of his country's judicial system by having his own lawyer write the highest judge's ruling against a major newspaper outlet. With his personal attention and involvement at the end of the movie, can you then really trust any Ecuadorian ruling in this case against Chevron?
At the very least, there are two definite failures here that need to be resolved anywhere oil is handled poorly: government regulation and citizen oversight of the government's competence. The latter is only made possible by a free press, something Ecuador apparently doesn't have. Also, don't let your ducks and chickens drink out of an old construction tire if you want them to live.
"Crude" is a documentary about a class action suit brought by the indigenous populations of Ecuador against Chevron(who merged with Texaco and assumed their past liabilities including this one), seeking damages for the dumping of wastes which has destroyed waterways which are the lifeblood of the country. As a result, many people are sick and dying from cancer and most cannot afford the treatments at far away hospitals. Chevron's response is that this is not their fault since according to them the damage was caused primarily by PetroEcuador after the refineries were nationalized in the 1990's.(They're next by the way.) Regardless, the damage has been done. For the first time, the indigenous peoples have a voice, through their lawyers, Pablo Fajardo and Steven Donziger, who the documentary follows around for a period of two years as the lawsuit heats up and turns into a major public relations battle.(At one point, a prominent human rights activist is reminded to stay on message.) Even as I am sure which side of the fight this effective documentary is on, it also seems it might be a part of this same public relations campaign.
"Crude" strains to look fair and balanced--but to an informed viewer, it's nothing more than an anti-corporate diatribe worthy of Fox News (were Rupert a leftist). It may be cool in many circles to hate corporations and especially oil companies, but anyone doing 10 minutes of research on the subject will see that here the tables have been turned in 2014. Read about Mr. Donzinger's manipulation of the facts--and the travesty of justice left by his actions--and you'll feel cheated by the storyline of this poorly researched documentary. Do read about the case before being pulled in by your hearstrings; if you read nothing else, read Michael Krauss' article: "Ecuador, Chevron and Steven Donziger: The Travesty Described in Detail"
What the MOVIE INFO could have read had the producers been honest with their reprsentation: "The story behind the world's largest environmental extortion suit by American lawyer and his band with connections to the President and funded by gambling and lobbyist interests. Shamed by a Federal Judge, the underlying case is a tragedy, as is the environmental treatment of Ecuador by it's own government run oil company and judicial system."
From the WSJ: "[L]ast March federal Judge Lewis Kaplan found the Ecuador ruling was the result of fraud and racketeering and judged it unenforceable in the U.S. Judge Kaplan also found Mr. Donziger liable for racketeering violations, and Chevron filed a claim against Mr. DeLeon in Gibraltar. Under the settlement, Mr. DeLeon agreed to turn over to Chevron his financial interest in "Crude," a propaganda film about the case that he also helped to finance. Mr. DeLeon also issued a public statement that included the following: "I have concluded that representatives of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, including Steven Donziger, misled me about important facts. If I had known these facts, I would not have funded the litigation." The Wall Street Journal Editorial 02/18/15
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