Thursday, June 4, 2009
Sweet Crude A film about oil exploitation in the Niger Delta
Sweet Crude a film by Sandy Cioffi confronts us with the human cost for our thirst for oil. Everytime we get in a car, we are part of the problem represented in the movie, the ruthless oppression of the people who live in the Niger Delta, the poisoning of their water, killing of their fish, razing of their villages, beating and murder of their resistance leaders.
We need to know that if we don't get out of our cars, our airplanes, and whatever other oil consuming toys we have,we are the reason that this part of the planet is bleeding literally and figuratively.
This brilliant film combines aesthetics and politics. It is full of information, human interest, and data presented against a backdrop of an abstract painting that suggests rusted oil drums. The footage of the river, the villages, the boats, is not aestheticized, we are not looking at pretty landscapes. We are looking at small pieces of a ravaged and ruined ecosystem. The film is documentary, but the stunning resistance, energy, and perseverence of the people who have been invaded by the thirst for oil, in spite of attacks by military of their own government, is the real message of the movie. They wanted peaceful resistance, they wanted to negotiate, they want some benefit from the enormous profits pouring out of their lands. They have no schools, no clean water, no health clinics, no fish. Yet they stay because they have nowhere else to go. They have lived there for centuries.
There is a straight line from their ruined lives to our plush comforts, connected by oil pipelines.
One of the best part of the movie is when the ABC newsman is trying to force a peaceful negotiator for MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) to say he was an armed terrorist in league with Al Queda. It was easy to see how the news forces its own narrow cliches onto its subjects. MEND began as a non violent group that tried to work with the government, but they were repeatedly betrayed, killed outright, and subject to massive retaliation, so now they have an armed wing. It is impossible to fight massive military attacks and full betrayal of trust without armed resistance. ( And I believe in peace)
The government is currently launching an all out attack against what it refers to as militant camps. The success of these resistance groups in shutting pipelines has been impressive. Why can't we do anything more to support them.
They must fight against Shell, Exonn, Total, their own government's massive military assault, and world indifference. It is simply greed that prevents the governmnet and the oil companies from respecting these people, giving them the basic survival necessities. What they want instead is to remove them, just as we removed our Indians, so they can completely destroy the entire Delta is the purusit of oil production.
In twenty years, where will the planet be. We just can't seem to change course! Instead of bailing out GM, how about paying the workers to learn how to make non polluting transportation. ?