Crude: have you seen the price of oil lately?

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Check out Joe’s article in The Huffington Post

October 14th, 2009

From The Huffington Post October 13, 2009

By Joe Berlinger

Crude’s Important Story, And What You Can Do To Help

For the past month, I’ve been traveling around the country presenting my new film Crude to theatrical audiences, and it has been an incredibly eye-opening and emotional experience.

Crude tells the story of the largest environmental lawsuit on the planet, pitting 30,000 Ecuadorean rainforest residents against Chevron, the world’s fifth-largest company. Making the film was a three-year labor of love — a grueling process that was both physically and emotionally draining. Now that the film is finished and has taken on its own life, bringing it to theatres across the country has been a tremendously rewarding experience, mostly because of the way in which it has changed my view of my fellow citizens. The theatrical release of the film has reminded me of the power of cinema to unite and inspire people, and confirmed my belief that cinema can and should be a communal experience.

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The environmental and human rights tragedy that is examined in Crude was allowed to happen because of complacency, greed and an indifference to the environment and to human suffering. What I have seen from audiences in Q&A sessions after the film plays is quite the opposite – a desire to get involved and make a difference.

After the first question, which is invariably, “What can we do to help these people?” I point the audience to our website, where people can donate to the clean drinking water project started by activist (and wife of Sting) Trudie Styler and implemented by UNICEF and the Rainforest Foundation. You can also find out more about a variety of NGOs – including Oxfam, AmazonWatch and Witness – that are doing work to try and change the situation of the thousands of people affected by this, and other, tragedies.

Sometimes, people won’t have a question, but will share their personal feelings about how the film has touched them. A young woman at a screening in New York told us, “I am a lawyer, and seeing this film has made me realize that I might not always have worked on the right side of justice. I need to make some changes in my life.” People have talked about being awakened to how their decisions touch others halfway around the world, and vowed to be more diligent about educating themselves about the companies they support. They have signed petitions, offered donations to the clean water project, and bought our t-shirts, the proceeds of which go directly to that water project. And they have tearfully embraced us, thanking us for introducing them to a story that has changed their lives.

Read the rest of this entry »

WEST MEMPHIS 3

October 13th, 2009
wm3.web

Image from Berlinger’s Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robinhood Hills (HBO, 1996)

Although this is not about the Ecuador story, please read this article which appeared in yesterday’s New York Times about the West Memphis Three case. This is an important story that is extremely close to our hearts, and was the subject of Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky’s films Paradise Lost, Revelations: Paradise Lost 2, and Paradise Lost 3, which is currently in production. Like the Ecuador/Chevron case, the system is moving extremely slowly, but we hope that increased attention on this tragedy may help push the wheels of justice forward. To learn more about the WM3, please visit www.wm3.org.

-Team CRUDE

¡Viva Fajardo! The Story Behind the Local Hero Lawyer

September 24th, 2009

This sneak peek clip features Pablo Fajardo, the young Ecuadorean trial lawyer featured in CRUDE–the David in this David and Goliath story. The $27-billion lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, the largest environmental suit on the planet, is Pablo Fajardo’s very first case as an attorney. Pablo is an incredible person – extremely charismatic, extraordinarily dedicated, and tremendously brave. When we met him, we instantly knew he was going to be the hero of CRUDE…if his story was scripted in a fictional film, you wouldn’t believe it…impoverished oil field worker who was so angry about the environmental degradation he witnessed that he decided, against all odds, to do something about it.  Pablo is beloved by the communities he serves, and is a tireless advocate for the rights of his countrymen. He’s also a really funny guy, something that doesn’t really come across that much in the film.

Meeting Pablo and learning his personal story was one of the things that made us feel that the footage we were shooting for Crude would really become a feature-length film. The first person connected with the case who we met was Steven Donziger, the American consulting attorney who works with Pablo. While Steven always struck us as a compelling and fascinating character, it really wasn’t until meeting Pablo – a perfect yin to Steven’s yang – that we knew this story could be compelling enough to sustain a feature doc.

While Pablo’s personality and story were always interesting, his transformation from young lawyer toiling away in obscurity to international folk hero, recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the very first CNN Hero Award, and hobnobbing with celebrities at Live Earth happened right before our eyes, and was captured in the film.

Despite all of the accolades, Pablo himself has not changed from the man we met back in 2005. He still takes the 7-hour bus ride from Shushufindi or Lago Agrio to Quito a few times per month, he still sleeps in the same ramshackle room at his mother’s house (though he frequently sleeps on a cot at his legal office in Lago), and he still fights tirelessly for the rights of the people in his community. ¡Viva Fajardo!

Help us support the indigenous communities of Ecuador.  Buy a Fajardo t-shirt and all profits will be donated directly to the Water Project.  Email CRUDETSHIRTS@gmail.com for details.

CRUDE Charity T-shirts-SOLD OUT!

September 17th, 2009

Director Joe Berlinger films Ecuadorean children drinking purified water with Rainforest Foundation founder, Trudie Styler.  Photo by Juan Diego Perez

Director Joe Berlinger films Ecuadorean children drinking purified water with Rainforest Foundation founder, Trudie Styler. Photo by Juan Diego Perez

Help us get the CRUDE word out!

Help provide clean water to tens of thousands of Ecuadoreans!

Look effortlessly chic while doing both of those things!

As some of you know, we’ve been selling these CRUDE & Fajardo tees all week after the first evening shows at IFC Center. Joe wanted “a quick and easy way for people to be able to participate in the Water Project.” As he says, “so many people leave the theater wanting to do something. It’s an honor to be able to connect people to the cause.”

So CRUDEies, it’s time to shell out that cash and put on that tee.

CRUDE Tees

CRUDE Tees

Fajardo Tees

Fajardo Tees

We will be continuing to sell after the 7:55p show tonight and after the 7:20p shows for the remainder of our run at IFC (through Tue, 9/22). Shirts are goin’ fast, so please come down and lend your support.

Both styles are 100 % cotton (sizes S-XL). We’re asking $20 USD per shirt.  Each barrel of clean water costs roughly $400 USD.  All profits go directly to The Water Project featured in the film.

If you can’t make it down to IFC and are interested in purchasing one (or many!) of our sweet tees, please submit your request via CRUDETSHIRTS@gmail.com.

Thank you!

-Team CRUDE

The Amazon to Houston and Back Again

September 17th, 2009

One of the things that excited us about this story was the way it naturally crossed paths with so many different locations and worlds. But connecting all of the locations (we shot in numerous Ecuadorean locations, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, London, Boulder and New Jersey) proved challenging in the edit room. In this scene, we bridged the continental divide by following Emergildo Criollo’s story, shot in his Cofán village in the Ecuadorean Amazon, to Houston, TX, and illustrate it with starkly contrasting visuals.

The cut from Emergildo’s sunset canoe trip to the concrete jungle of Houston not only allowed us to continue the story of Emergildo’s journey as he confronted Chevron’s top brass at their annual shareholders meeting (the year we shot this scene, 2006, it was held in the former Enron building, an interesting bit of irony), but also communicates in a quick and visual manner the contrast between the battlegrounds on which this case is being waged and the worlds that separate the adversaries, both physically and culturally. When we cut to Houston, the language also changes, from English to Spanish, further accentuating this divide.

The Houston scene is also the viewer’s first introduction to Steven Donziger, the plaintiffs’ American consulting attorney. As Steven emerges as a key figure in the film, it seemed appropriate to introduce him not in Ecuador, but in the United States, to show the unique role he plays in the case.

-Joe Berlinger, Director/Producer

A LETTER FROM THE FILMMAKER

September 15th, 2009

Crude is NOW PLAYING at New York’s IFC Center. Opens 9/18 at the NuArt in Los Angeles!

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Dear Friend,

First of all, I want to thank everyone who came out to see Crude in its first week at the IFC Center in New York. I met so many amazing folks who were moved by the film and left the theatre energized to help in whatever way they can. The tremendous response also gave Crude the highest per-screen average gross in the country, no small feat for a labor-of-love documentary that has relied solely on grassroots marketing, word-of-mouth, and some of the kindest reviews I have received in my career.

But our work has only just begun.  While hitting a homerun on one screen in Manhattan is a great start, we still have a tremendous uphill battle. In the days leading up to the release, Chevron stepped up its attacks on Crude, without having seen the film. Each week, the marketplace gets more crowded with bigger Hollywood films that can nudge the little guys out of the movie-going public’s consciousness. This Friday, Crude opens in Los Angeles at the Landmark NuArt, and continues at the IFC. If people do not continue to support the release, our two-week engagement in New York will end, and the film will no longer be able to be seen in the nation’s largest city.

If you came to see Crude during its opening week in New York, thank you again. If you were moved by the film, please urge your friends, families and loved ones to go see it this week or weekend. Organize a group from your neighborhood, work, school, church, or club to come and see it. Put the film on your Facebook, and e-mail everyone you know.

And if you haven’t seen it, please come see it today, tomorrow or this weekend. Not only are we relying on you, but the people whose lives we spent three years documenting are counting on their stories being heard.  We firmly believe that big oil only cares about the court of public opinion, and this movie is the best tool we have to encourage the bringing of much needed relief to this region and its people.

Best wishes,

Joe Berlinger

Director/Producer, Crude

Crude is a Box Office Hit!

September 13th, 2009

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Because of the tremendous outpouring of support from New York audiences this weekend, Crude, the “film Chevron doesn’t want you to see” is expected to have the highest per-screen weekend box office average in the country! The weekend per-screen average for Crude was nearly three times that of “The Final Destination,” the number one movie in America last week.

As you may be aware, Chevron has been stepping up its attacks on the movie, in the days leading up to its release, calling it “long on emotion and short on facts”. We find these allegations troubling, especially as we’ve made multiple offers to screen the film for Chevron representatives, all of which were rejected. The film goes to great lengths to give as much attention to the positions of each of the opposing parties in this landmark case.  Stephen Holden of the New York Timesamong other prominent critics — specifically cited this quality, saying, ‘rarely have such conflicts been examined with the depth and power of Crude.’

The people we’ve met at this weekend’s screenings have left the theater moved and motivated to raise awareness about the plight of more than 30,000 rainforest dwelling Ecuadoreans.  This weekend’s success indicates that the Chevron’s attempts to discredit the film have fallen on deaf ears, and audiences have made their voices heard. Crude was made with an attempt to respect its viewers enough to allow them to make up their own minds about this story, and we are grateful that so many folks have come out this weekend to do just that.

If you have already seen Crude, please encourage your friends, families and loved ones to do the same. And if you haven’t yet seen it, please check out our “Now Playing” section to find a screening near you.

Thanks again to all who have contributed to making the film a success!

Crude Opens Today in NYC!: Join Joe for a Q & A

September 9th, 2009

Controversy is swirling around the $27 billion lawsuit at the center of Crude.  But no one is arguing with the latest New York Times review of the film:

…”Thorough and impassioned… intelligently and artfully made.”

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NYC SCREENINGS @ IFC

323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street

Showtimes: 10:55am, 12:55pm, 3:10, 5:30, 7:55, 10:15pm

Tickets: http://bit.ly/ihzoF

JOE BERLINGER IN ATTENDANCE:

Thursday, September 10 at 7:55 and 10:15pm showings

Friday, September 11 at 7:55 and 10:15pm showings

Saturday, September 12 at 7:55 and 10:15pm showings

Sunday, September 13 at 12:55 and 5:30pm showings

ADDITIONAL CITIES AND PLAY DATES

http://crudethemovie.com/now-playing

Come see this timely and relevant film…and please help spread the word.

Critic Marshall Fine Calls Crude “Oscar Material”

September 8th, 2009

Leftover Texaco Barrels

The Huffington Post’s Marshall Fine anticipates that Crude will be a contender in this year’s Oscar race.  Fine is extremely moved by the film, calling Crude, “a David-vs.-Goliath story that tells it like it is. It leaves you shaking your head at the naked power grab driven by social Darwinism, as well as the bravery of the men who stand up to it.”  Fine says, “It’s impossible to watch this film and not come away with a personal vow never to patronize the Chevron corporation again.”

As Fine explains, “It’s infuriating, at the least, to look at and listen to evidence – and listen to Chevron’s lawyers and spokespeople denying all the things they so obviously are guilty of…[but] Berlinger tells the story calmly, carefully, offering both sides the opportunity to present a case. Yet it’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Chevron is being disingenuous about its culpability for massive environmental crimes. It’s just as obvious why Chevron is dead-set on tying the matter up in court until everyone involved has died of old age or the cancer caused by Chevron’s toxic legacy.”

Given the most recent allegations Chevron released against Ecuadorean judge Juan Nunez , perhaps Fine is onto something…

To Read More Visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marshall-fine/movie-review-icrudei-and_b_277187.html

Behind the Scenes: the Song of the Amazon

September 4th, 2009

The opening sequence of Crude features Marina Aguinda, an elder of the Cofán indigenous group, singing in her native language about the destruction of her people’s homeland. The scene was captured on one of our last filming trips in Ecuador, and for me, it was an unforgettable experience.

We first met Madre Marina (as she is known in her village) in early 2006, on one of our first trips to Ecuador. We were immediately drawn to her incredible face and presence, but she initially wanted nothing to do with us. As we later learned, her experiences with gringos had previously been extremely negative.

As we spent more time in the village over the following months and years, Madre Marina eventually came to welcome us warmly.  On the day she sang for us in the summer of 2008, we were interviewing her and some of the other elders from the village. They told us about the loss of culture they had experienced after Texaco’s arrival, and the death of their shaman. Marina also told us her heartbreaking personal story of how she was violated by oil workers and left her community for many years, living as a prostitute. As we talked about the Cofán culture and traditions that had been lost, music naturally came up. We asked if anyone could play or sing for us, but no one seemed interested.

When the interviews were over, we stopped filming to eat lunch – rice and occasional bits of chicken, prepared in a communal cauldron in the middle of the village. Suddenly, Marina appeared before us. Her face was painted, and she’d placed a beautiful flower through her nose. We immediately put down what was left of our food and grabbed the cameras. Marina took us out to a small clearing in the forest, and she began to sing the beautiful, haunting melody that is featured in the opening and closing scenes of Crude.

I am forever grateful to Madre Marina for her generosity of spirit and her willingness to share her song with us. She says that she sings, “so the world can know what has been done” to her people. We hope that her voice travels far and wide.

-Michael Bonfiglio, Producer/2nd Unit Director