Published: June 4, 2010
US Courts last month ruled in favor of Chevron’s request to view 600 hours of outtakes from the award-winning film Crude: The Real Price of Oil. The film chronicles the struggle of Ecuadorians against Chevron’s oil contamination of their land.
In this highly unusual case, Judge Lewis Kaplan, of the district court in Manhattan, awarded Chevron access to footage that could ultimately add to the company’s defense in a $27 billion case that spans more than seventeen years.
Judge Kaplan ruled that transparency and justice would be served by allowing the company access to the outtakes including interviews with environmental activists including Sting.
The decision brings into question the freedom of documentary filmmaking and journalist’s privilege. Filmmaker Michael Moore has said that the decision could have a “chilling effect.”
In a recent interview, Crude director Joseph Berlinger commented on the ruling. “It’s just a complete disregard for any belief in the first amendment. I am a journalist. I am covered by a journalist’s privilege,” said Berlinger. “We are shocked by the judge’s decision, at the broadness of the request.”
Berlinger plans to appeal the verdict, and is seeking donations to cover his legal fees.