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Crude, Joe Berlinger (2009)

One of those movies that’s interesting for reasons other than the ones the filmmakers wanted it to be interesting for. From 1964 to 1974, Texaco (now owned by Chevron) drilled for oil in Ecuador’s rain forest. After 1974, Ecuador’s state-owned oil development company continued to drill. Now the area is an environmental catastrophe. Local peoples filed a class action suit against Chevron in 1993, and now, 17 years later, the court case creeps imperceptibly forward. That’s the story, and it’s an important one. The film’s another matter. It reminds me of a homely kid desperate to be popular as it lurches from one overweening attempt at pathos after another. It is relentlessly spotty when it comes to facts, and relentlessly bombastic when it comes to Poignant Tableaux. It looks to me like the filmmakers, in their understandable eagerness to get this story told and to move viewers to sympathy, if not action, have sacrificed reportage for spectacle. It is, as I say, understandable, but it’s also unfortunate.

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