Chevron Goes Drilling for Footage

Crude

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The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Chevron wants to rummage through filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s cutting room floor. The company has been embroiled in a massive lawsuit in Ecuador, where it’s being sued for $27 billion to clean up a swath of rainforest that’s been polluted by decades of oil drilling. Last year, Berlinger released Crude, an excellent documentary about this lengthy, complex legal battle. Though the film was sympathetic to the indigenous Ecuadorians who are the plaintiffs, it also gave Chevron plenty of screen time to explain why it believes it’s not responsible for pollution that caused by the wells’ previous owner, Texaco. When I interviewed Berlinger last year, he explained why he took this approach:

My attitude is, I am not a lawyer; I am not a doctor; I am not a scientist. I am a filmmaker and I want to present what each side is saying and let the viewer come to their own conclusion. Chevron has wrapped itself in some pretty good arguments that make you scratch your head. The moral responsibility is certainly at its door. I leave it to other people to figure out whether there’s legal responsibility.

Now Chevron is saying that outtakes from Crude could help its case. It does not seem to be implying that Berlinger hid anything, but rather that his unedited footage could reveal misconduct by the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Berlinger tells the Chron that he’ll resist Chevron’s move, saying that turning over his footage would create a chilling effect for other documentarians: “I would be equally resistant if the plaintiffs had been subpoenaing me. There’s an important First Amendment principle to defend.” Berlinger is expected to make his case against Chevron’s director’s cut in federal court in Manhattan later this week.

 

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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