Combustible Celluloid
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With: Pablo Fajardo, Steven Donziger, Trudie Styler
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Joe Berlinger
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: English, Spanish, A'ingae, Secoya, with English subtitles
Running Time: 105
Date: 01/18/2009

Crude (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dawn's Oily Light

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) directs this documentary about an ongoing legal case so huge that no one movie could contain it all (and, of course, the case continues after the movie ends). 30,000 inhabitants of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador attempt to sue Texaco (and now its parent company Chevron) for irresponsibly drilling for oil and essentially rendering the land and water toxic.

The hero of the piece is a young, humble Ecuadorean lawyer Pablo Fajardo, and its mouthpiece is the loudmouth, but effective, American Steven Donziger. Eventually Sting's wife Trudie Styler gets involved, going on a publicity tour of the region and talking to the locals.

Berlinger gives a good amount of time to the big oil representatives, but it's clear that he's on the side of the people. Aside from that, Crude is a fine work of journalism, gathering an incredible amount of facts and presenting them with clarity and perspective. I'd hesitate to call it a masterpiece, though, mainly because its immense scope hinders it from being a really personal or timeless work.

DVD Details: I'm very surprised that this wasn't nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. First Run's excellent DVD comes with an alternate Spanish-language version. Extras include 20 minutes of deleted scenes, a bonus song sung by Cofan elder Madre Marina Aguinda, footage from the Sundance premiere, a little clip from the Sundance Channel, footage from the Ecuador premiere, footage from the New York press junket, a photo gallery, a theatrical trailer and a couple of interesting trailers for Prodigal Sons and The Most Dangerous Man in America. There's also a list of resources to help volunteers get involved.

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