Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Federal District Court in New York granted Chevron's request for a subpoena, which demands access to over 600 hours of footage from "Crude," a documentary that chronicles a legal battle being supported by 30,000 Amazonian settlers hoping to hold Texaco (now owned by Chevron) responsible for environmental devastation in Ecuador.
Joseph Berlinger, the filmmaker behind "Crude," claimed he was protected by "journalistic privilege," but, according to the New York Times, he qualified for the privilege but "the conditions for overcoming that privilege had been met" by Chevron.
Berlinger plans to ask the judge to "stay the
subpoena" so decision can be appealed.
Many in the documentary filmmaking community have indicated that they will support Berlinger's effort to appeal and resist this decision. Filmmakers understand what this decision could mean for the future of documentary filmmaking.
Gordon Quinn, artistic director and founder of Kartemquin Films in Chicago, said, "My experience is that the 'outs' of a film usually show the big and the powerful to be worse than they are portrayed in our films, but if we have to turn over footage and spend time in court and defend ourselves for expressing our First Amendment rights it can be an overwhelming burden for a small organization like ours."
Quinn added, "It has the feel of intimidation and using the legal process to let us know don'ttake onthe big guys or they can drive you crazy and drain your resources by tying you up in court."