It was fun times at the Los Angeles premiere of CRUDE last night, but the organic hors d'oeuvres and wine belied a serious mission -- to bring the plight of 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants to the American public as they battle against one of the largest corporations in the world, Chevron.
The crowd contained both A-lister celebs like Sean Penn as well as A-lister activists. Jodie Evans of Code Pink was in attendance, as well as filmmaker and activist Stuart Townsend, aerial artist John Quiggly, Mike Brune from RAN, and Atossi Soltani of Amazon Watch who hosted the event. Here are some pics:
Though the initial lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Texaco, now owned by Chevron, worked diligently to have the trial moved to Ecuador for reasons that are pretty obvious if you are familiar with the rural South American judicial system. They succeeded, but their efforts backfired.
After a lengthy trial in Ecuador, a judgement was made that Chevron should pay $27 billion to the government to fund a massive environmental cleanup and reparations for catastrophic human health impacts.
Chevron has repeatedly rebuked the claims (I myself interviewed someone high up at Chevron hoping to get some more info on their side of the story, to no avail). First they said that the polluted areas were the responsibility of a Petro-Ecuador/Texaco consortium, NOT Texaco.
When that was disproved they changed their tune and said that detailed analysis proved the water pollution resulting from oil well effluent was not hazardous to human health. Staggering cancer rates and river water that (20 years later) still smells like gasoline have also proven that wrong.
The claimants main argument is that when Chevron purchased Texaco they also purchased the lawsuit against Texaco. Texaco responds by saying that when Texaco handed over the wells, they signed away all liability to the government.
On the eve of the New York premiere of CRUDE last week, Chevron launched a subterfuge campaign to try and piggy back on the web traffic generated from the film, which included a potentially falsified video that incriminates one of the Ecuadorean judges (who incidentally was never part of the original trial).
Amazon Watch is calling for an investigation into alleged entrapment and tampering of evidence and what (if any) role Chevron may have had in these legal violations.
No doubt there is along road ahead for the people of Ecuador and the lawyers representing them, but this film may help in another way -- by raising public awareness about the horrors that result when a company does not behave responsibly.
IF YOU ARE IN LOS ANGELES, GO SEE THE FILM THIS WEEK! CRUDE is on its way to 40 other cities so you can visit the website to check for showtimes.