Last week the filmmakers of the documentary CRUDE—a film that looks at the nefarious activities of Chevron in Ecuador and the ensuing court case around the company’s misdeeds—were told by a US court that their footage (600 hours of it) must be handed over to Chevron’s lawyers to possibly be used against the very people the filmmakers sought to help with the film in the first place. This unprecedented decision could have profound ramifications for documentary filmmakers, and completely elides the notion of “journalistic integrity” afforded to those working in the news media. Art Threat received this communiqué from the filmmakers this morning:
CRUDE Filmmakers Subpoenaed by Chevron. Join the fight for the First Amendment rights of the makers of CRUDE and documentary filmmakers everywhere!
As many of you may have seen in the press, the makers of CRUDE were recently served with subpoenas by Chevron, in an effort to gain access to the nearly 600 hours of raw footage accumulated during the making of the film. Our attorneys filed a response, stating that our footage is protected by the journalist’s privilege and forcing us to hand it over to a third party (either Chevron, the plaintiffs’ lawyers, or anyone else) is a violation of our First Amendment rights. A hearing was held on Friday, April 30th in New York. But on Thursday, May 6th, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled in Chevron’s favor.
We are appealing this decision, as we feel it is a violation of our First Amendment rights and could have a seriously chilling effect on documentary filmmakers and journalists everywhere. We appreciate the incredible outpouring of support from people in the documentary community and allies all over the world, and we hope that this extremely troubling situation will conclude in our favor, but we need your help to put up the fight.
Defending ourselves against Chevron, the third largest corporation in America, is extraordinarily costly. We have set up a Kickstarter page as a way for our supporters to help us raise funds for our defense against Chevron and stand up in favor of the future of documentary filmmaking and investigative journalism.
Please donate whatever you can and pass this email and Kickstarter link on to others who may be interested in supporting the cause. On the Kickstarter page, we are offering signed CRUDE DVDs and posters as well as CRUDE American Apparel T-shirts as small tokens of thanks for your generous support.
In addition to the substantial amount of personal funds Joe Berlinger has already put toward this case, we have set our public funding goal at $20,000 (a small fraction of the total cost) by the end of June. With your pledge, you can play an active role and make a very real difference in what has quite rapidly spiraled into an historic battle for the freedom of the press, the protection of journalists, and the foundation of documentary film. For more articles on the case, please visit the CRUDE Blog.
-Joe Berlinger & Team CRUDE