Film Review: Crude

A dramatic legal showdown in the Amazon rainforest pits indigenous Ecuadorians against Chevron.

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In this fascinating follow-up to his 2004 rockumentary, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, director Joe Berlinger captures a dramatic legal showdown in the Amazon rainforest. Berlinger spent three years following a marathon multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit in which thousands of indigenous Ecuadorians are suing Chevron for polluting their water and land, causing a wave of sickness and death. (The suit, now in its 16th year, was originally filed against Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001.) “Water is the life blood of the Cofán people,” explains an indigenous leader. “They came and spilled oil, contaminated the river, and my children died.”

Yet Crude isn’t your standard David vs. Goliath environmental film. It takes a sweeping approach, weaving together stories of the indigenous people and the lawyers fighting on their behalf, particularly a charismatic young Ecuadorian named Pablo Fajardo. The film’s most riveting legal moments take place in the rainforest itself, where lawyers make passionate open-air arguments during an inspection of alleged contamination sites. “When I say something, they have to think a thousand times to come up with a lie to counter my truth,” Fajardo says of the oil company’s lawyers. “They have to think much harder than me.”

Even as he takes pains to show how oil drilling has ravaged the lives of the rainforest dwellers, Berlinger lets Chevron tell its side of the story. The oil giant blames Ecuador‘s state oil company, which briefly ran the oil fields in the ’90s, yet also claims there is no evidence of any health effects. Its lawyers suggest that their scrappy opposing counsel just wants a piece of the potential payoff. Recognizing the complexity of the case, Berlinger doesn’t take sides, but Crude leaves no doubt that oil and justice don’t mix.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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