U.S. oil giant Chevron attacked the British filmmakers of a new short documentary that exposes the environmental tragedies the company had left behind during its oil operations in Ecuador's Amazon between 1964 and 1992.
The short art-house documentary titled “The Afectados” was released earlier this month and features Academy Award-winning actor Julie Christie reciting the 1950 Pablo Neruda poem “The United Fruit Company.”
“If those involved in the production of this film truly wanted to help those affected by current social and environmental conditions in Ecuador, they would seek to hold Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and his government accountable,” the company said in a statement.
Those who were interviewed for the film, however, had a different opinion on who should be held accountable. “Chevron is a company with a lot of economic power and they think they are God on earth. It will set a precedent for them, once they recognize the harm they have caused,” Amazon “Afectado” Alejandra Soto said in the film.
The only commentary in the 13-minute film is Nerduda's poem recited by Christie, interspersed with the testimonies of the Afectados, those affected by the company's 18 billion gallons of waste water and crude oil dumped in the forest area near the town of Lago Agrio in the Ecuadorean Amazon during its operational years.
Cheveron and Ecuador are undergoing a 22-year-old legal conflict, in which Ecuador demands that Chevron take responsibility for its actions and compensate those affected, while the oil giant argues that they had operated under the accepted environmental regulations in the country at the time.
The filmmakers and the renowned actor see the film as an opportunity to take the issue mainstream and increase awareness about it.
Christie, known for her iconic roles in “Doctor Zhivago” and “Fahrenheit 451,” said of making the film, “I find it both striking and distressing that in 2015, a poem written by Pablo Neruda in 1950 can still be a fitting statement on the relationship between a transnational company and poor, indigenous Latin Americans.”
Chevron has attacked our film on their colossal pollution of Ecuadorian Amazon. Can't recall a weaker line of attack http://t.co/ydgKp2PW71— Mark Donne (@donne_mark) June 17, 2015
Mark Donne, the film's director, stressed that the issue was of both human and environmental importance.
“Filming in the Ecuadorian Amazon and seeing with my own eyes the scale of destruction caused by years of toxic pollution, I cannot help on a human level yearning for justice for the people I talked to. We hope we’ve brought this story to life, and that urgent justice will be delivered to the Ecuadorean people blighted by a simply colossal act of pollution,” he said.
In what activists have dubbed the “Amazonian Chernobyl,” thousands have died from a cancer spike following the contamination of the soil and water supplies in the Ecuadorean Amazon where Texaco-Chevron was operating. The company is facing a $9.5 billion cleanup costs and damages ruling, which it refuses to abide by.
Julie Christie in 2008, at the announcement of her Acadamy Award nominiation for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in the film “Away from Her” | Photo: EFE