A "Crude" Reality? the Use of Documentary Films and Other Media in Aid of Transnational Litigation: Lessons from the Chevron-Ecuador Legal Saga

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Manuel GOMEZ, Florida International University College of Law, USA
The connection between documentary film and legal issues has lasted decades and grown more complex. Narrative storytelling via film as responses to litigation have solidified an entire genre of legal entertainment, from documentaries like Food, Inc. and Hot Coffee to biographical dramas like Erin Brokovitch. Yet, in recent decades, film has taken a more interactive role with the legal system. The 2008 film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired became the subject of an appeal when a prosecutor admitted, on camera, to coaching a judge toward a conviction. Polanski petitioned with an extraordinary writ, citing the film as evidence of impropriety and ex parte communication. Serial, a 2014 podcast, gained national recognition after an investigative journalist unraveled the court proceedings of a murder conviction from the year 2000, inciting a new witness to come forward with alibi testimony for a teenager convicted of first degree murder. As a result, an appeal hearing was granted, with new testimony admitted. It seems that the genre of film and podcast media creates a bridge between the court of law and the court of public opinion that may influence justice in more ways than one. Yet, the use of film and other communicative media may not always have a desirable affect, especially when employed during ongoing litigation.  This presentation is based on research conducted on the use of the documentary film Crude in the two decade long environmental litigation involving the multinational oil giant Chevron in Ecuador. It discusses the use of documentary films in the course of litigation, the potential advantages and shortcomings.