Federal Court Rules Against 'Crude' Filmmaker

By Tom White

As reported the The New York Times, a federal judge in Manhattan on Thursday ruled favor of Chevron in its bid to subpoena footage from filmmaker Joe Berlinger's 2009 documentary Crude, which chronicles a lawsuit filed by Ecuadorian residents against Chevron over the oil company's involvement in the contamination of the local water supply. Chevron is seeking 600 hours of footage from the film in an effort to shore up their case in the long-running lawsuit. Lawyers for Berlinger are arguing on First Amendment grounds that his material is protected by journalistic privilege.

In an interview with Jennifer Merin of About.com that took place prior to his going to court this past week, Berlinger said, "Our opposition has nothing to do with Chevron's position regarding issues raised in the lawsuit depicted in the film, but rather represents our concern about this as an unnecessary breach of our First Amendment rights--not only as they pertain to Crude, but also with long term implications for investigative documentary filmmaking, which represents a singularly important form of in-depth reporting in the contemporary media forum."