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A Standoff Between Chevron and “Crude”

“Crude” was a high-profile documentary last year that chronicled the years of litigation between residents of an Amazon rainforest area of Ecuador and Chevron over the oil company’s liability for environmental damage and cleanup of an oil field.

The maker of the movie, Joseph Berlinger, got cooperation from the both sides of the ongoing controversy, but now Chevron is seeking to view some 600 hours of footage that didn’t make it into the movie. To no surprise, Berlinger isn’t about to do that, and has filed memorandum in federal court citing journalistic privilege.

While environmentalists will view this as an example of Chevron trying to throw its weight around, it’s also publicity for “Crude,” and in the documentary world, that attention is a precious commodity. But Chevron’s willingness to go on what Berlinger’s lawyers call a “fishing expedition” also has its advantages, as it calls attention to the oil companies claims of misconduct on the part of the plaintiffs in the trial, which is taking place in an Ecuadorian court.

My story for Variety is here.

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