Is Chevron scared of "Crude" the movie?

Wed Sep 9, 2009 3:20pm EDT
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By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Is oil giant Chevron afraid of a movie?

One of the stars of "Crude," a documentary about a $27 billion environmental lawsuit filed against the company on behalf of residents of Ecuador's Amazon, certainly thinks so. A spokesman for Chevron vehemently denies it.

The film's New York opening on Wednesday is the latest twist in a class action case that began 16 years ago, which argues that Chevron should compensate some 30,000 Ecuadoreans who live near waste pits left by oil exploration going back to the 1960s.

"Crude" shows villagers living by oil-slicked streams, washing clothes in contaminated water. One scene shows a newborn with head-to-toe skin rashes; others offer interviews with Ecuadoreans who contend those who use the water or live near it are prone to cancer, birth defects and other ailments.

The film is absorbing, in large part due to one of the personalities with the most screen time: Trudie Styler, who with her husband Sting founded the Rainforest Foundation.

Styler visited the affected area in Ecuador and her group donated rain-collection barrels so villagers can have clean water. She praised the film for its environmental message and vividly recalled the stench in the area.

"Before you're smelling things, your eyes start to prick and to have a burning sensation and the closer you get to ... these contaminated areas where people are being forced to live, your nostrils fill up ... your saliva gets the taste of petroleum in it as well ... and then 20 minutes later you're getting this horrible headache," Styler told Reuters.


<p>Motorists are shown at gas pumps at a Chevron gasoline station in Burbank, California July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>