A film by Martin O'Brien and Robbie Proctor
Mofilms, 2007, 30 minutes.
The documentary Justicia Now! tells the story of 30,000 rainforest-dwelling Ecuadoreans who organized to bring the largest environmental class-action lawsuit in history against Chevron/Texaco for oil contamination of their territory.
The lawsuit, begun in 1993, marks the first time a U.S. company has been charged in a foreign court over environmental crimes. The Ecuadoreans have managed to keep the issue not only in the courts but in the public eye, drawing fierce opposition from Chevron, which has denied that it is responsible for damage to the environment and to public health.
The Ecuadoreans achieved a milestone in 2008 when a court-appointed independent expert recommended that Chevron be liable for damages between $7 billion and $16.3 billion.
I visited Lago Agrio, where some of the film’s footage was shot, back in the 1980s. I remember listening to gunshots pepper the night while lying in bed in a flimsy hotel.
“It’s about the oil,” someone said the next day.
It’s still, as the film shows us, about the oil.
But in this documentary, people power has replaced weaponry, as some remarkable footage demonstrates: An impassioned woman with cancer calls for justice before a crowd; the Ecuadorean lawyer Pablo Fajado tells how even the death of his brother has not swayed him from pursuing the case; and several hundred people line up to form the words, shot from the air, “Justice Now.”
The film also includes interviews with concerned North Americans like Darryl Hannah, Stuart Townsend, aerialist John Quigly, and Amazon Watch director Atossa Soltani.
In just 30 minutes, Justicia Now! does an excellent job of showing how people affected by oil pollution are fighting back.
It is an inspiring tool not only for raising awareness but for sparking a dialogue about how the cost of human and natural life should be weighed against the cost of oil.
The film can be downloaded for free at www.mofilms.org.
Lisa Gale Garrigues wrote this article as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Lisa is a contributing editor of YES!
Interested? Watch the Trailer for Justicia Now!