First Run Features has the privilege of distributing CRUDE, Joe Berlinger's brilliant documentary that lays out the basis of the $27 billion dollar lawsuit bought by the indigenous people of the Amazon against Chevron for the injury caused them and their land. Berlinger is one of this country's most highly respected film journalists, and this film has received many awards and rave reviews.
A lower court recently granted Chevron access to over 600 hours of footage that the filmmaker chose not to include in the final cut. These outtakes are substantively no different from a reporter's notes that form the basis of a written newspaper article. Inevitably some of the reporter's notes, just as some of the footage of a documentary, will not be included in the final work. But granting access to the notes or the footage can reveal the thinking process and the kind of judgments the journalist is making. Subjecting the creative process of a journalist to this kind of scrutiny can profoundly inhibit other journalists in the future from embarking on a full and robust exploration of a subject.
Berlinger spent enormous time, effort, money and skill over a period of years to make this important piece of journalism. Some may view the result of his investigation as a devastating indictment of a predatory exploiter of the resources of an impoverished country who refuses to take responsibility for the injury to the people and land its pollution caused. But, in fact, the film has been cited by such authorities as The New York Times, The Boston Globe and dozens of other newspapers for being extremely thorough and extremely fair to both sides.
What is also at stake here is the high risk that other journalists in the future will be deterred from embarking on similar hard hitting investigations. In order to be informed, persuaded or disabused of misperceptions, the American public desperately needs the benefit of uninhibited documentaries like CRUDE, and journalists like Joe Berlinger.
President, First Run Features