Documentaries are a great way for important stories to evolve from merely a news article or short broadcast, into something with depth and creativity. I’ve also learned a lot about important environmental issues by watching documentaries.

Recently, I watched Crude on Netflix. Joe Berlinger directed this documentary detailing an ongoing legal battle between 30,000 residents of Ecuador and the oil company Chevron. The Amazonian people want Chevron to be held accountable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste on their land.

The documentary, released in 2009, only follows the case for two years, but explains that for years Chevron delayed the proceedings. I found that interesting because (as seen by the BP oil spill) I doubt a company such as Chevron could evade going to court if the situation happened in the United States. Of course, the BP oil spill case will take years and years to settle because of all the parties involved, but this case seen in Crude shows a completely different scenario in which Chevron refuses to take responsibility.

What is most saddening are the personal stories told by these residents throughout the film of their struggles. Many of them have gotten cancer or have seen odd skin rashes on their children, but they can’t prove for certain the toxic oil waste is what is causing health problems in their community.

This documentary is an investigate piece made to reveal the corruption in legal proceedings and in Ecuador’s government. Watching it made me disheartened by the fact that such an obvious environmental catastrophe could fly under the radar. Regardless, it’s a great piece because it captures the story of these people and their way of life so completely. I highly recommend watching Crude to see their struggle and what some call “Amazon Chernobyl”.