Only a filmmaker could look at the David and Goliath story and decide a bigger Goliath would make the story more dramatic. That begins to get at the scope of the conflict in Crude by Ben Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster). The film follows a class-action lawsuit on behalf of several small, poor communities of Ecuadorian Amazon dwellers and the oil corporation Chevron, which merged with Texaco, the company that started drilling in the region in the late 1960s. Texaco's extraction practices systematically dumped oil and waste into pits that ran over into all of the interconnected streams and rivers the indigenous people relied on for everything from bathing to drinking water. Chronic health problems, including cancers among children and teenagers, developed. The film captures the emotionally wrenching side of the Ecuadorians' powerlessness. But drilling was taken over by the company PetroEcuador in the early 1990s, and Chevron attorneys argue their corporation fulfilled its obligation to remediate its work sites.
One of the lead plaintiff attorneys, Steven Donziger, sought out Berlinger to publicize the struggle, and the film follows a phase of judicial inspections in the rainforest as well as trotting the globe to Chevron shareholder meetings and various high-profile environmental activist events. Whether publicity and global awareness can counter the vast resources Chevron applies at every level of the process, including lobbying the governments of the United States and Ecuador, makes it an epic battle between human rights and global capitalism. But now in it's 16th year, the case may never reach a conclusion. In this story, David may die of natural, or unnatural, causes long before he gets to take a final shot. Tickets $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 Zeitgeist members. — Will Coviello
7 p.m. Sat.-Fri.; through Oct. 4
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net