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Chevron Obtains Film Footage for Amazon Defense

Fri, 05/07/2010 - 7:40am

NEW YORK (PRNewswire) — A federal district court judge today ordered Joe Berlinger, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, to turn over more than 600 hours of raw film footage to Chevron Corporation.

Chevron had asked the court on April 9th to order production of outtakes from Berlinger's documentary film Crude. That film reports on an environmental catastrophe in the Amazon rainforest, and the fierce litigation that has ensued between the indigenous people affected by the damage and Chevron, the US corporation allegedly responsible for the harm. Crude debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009, was released in theaters in fall 2009, and is currently available on DVD from First Run Features and Netflix.

Chevron and its lawyers hope to mine the footage for material to use in their defense of this decades-long environmental lawsuit brought in Ecuadorean courts. The court rejected Berlinger's attempt to protect his sources and his editorial process from this intrusion, and is allowing Chevron to sift through hours of raw footage.

"Today's extremely broad decision will cause grave harm to journalists, investigative reporters and documentary filmmakers," said Maura Wogan of Frankfurt Kurnit, the lawyers for Mr. Berlinger and his production company. "The court has shown an unprecedented lack of sensitivity to the journalist's privilege and the First Amendment."

"We will appeal today's unfortunate decision," said Berlinger. "The filming and production of Crude – which presents both sides of this compelling and important story – is precisely the type of investigative journalism that the First Amendment was designed to protect."

For a copy of the decision and Mr. Berlinger's legal papers, visit www.fkks.com.

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