“Small but mighty” is a phrase that comes to mind when watching the short film, “Justicia Now,” and the people it profiles.
The 30-minute documentary, produced by the social justice-minded media organization Mofilms, follows the powerful movement of indigenous peoples in eastern Ecuador who have taken on ChevronTexaco in what could be one of the biggest legal environmental battles ever.
The confrontation centers on a class-action lawsuit first filed in U.S. federal court in New York in 1993. Launched on behalf of 30,000 indigenous peoples in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, the suit charges that Texaco (since acquired by Chevron) poisoned the region and spilled 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater while drilling for oil between the 1960s and 1990s. Since shifted to trial in Ecuador (at Chevron’s request), the lawsuit (Aguinda vs. ChevronTexaco) is seeking an environmental cleanup whose estimated cost is $10 billion.
The suit is expected to come to a conclusion sometime next year.
Directed by Martin O’Brien and Robbie Proctor, “Justicia Now” documents the street protests and activism of the local people. They claim the legacy of Texaco’s oil drilling is a landscape fouled by oil-slicked streams and rivers, poisoned wildlife and lethal doses of carcinogens. The filmmakers, occasionally accompanied by actress Daryl Hannah, travel with indigenous activists to view the environmental damage first-hand, and to meet and speak with locals who describe miscarriages, cancer and other impacts.
Investigators tracking the case say communities close to old Texaco wells suffer from childhood leukemia rates four times the national average. The amount of oil spilled in the region, they add, is 30 times that released in the Exxon Valdez accident. Ecuadorian locals have dubbed the situation the “Rainforest Chernobyl.”
Mofilms has made “Justicia Now” available for free download, and it’s not only worth viewing but passing along to others on your mailing list. The film packs powerful visuals, haunting music and an inspirational punch from seeing poor and disadvantaged people engaged in a true David vs. Goliath battle.