Film Review On "Sweet Oil"

979 words - 4 pages

The documentary "Sweet Crude", directed by Sandy Cioffi tells a tragic story of Nigeria's Niger Delta, where the violent conflict between the government and the Ogoni people living in the Niger Delta have been going on for decades, resulting in thousands of casualties and refugees. Though the government and multinational corporations have raked in billions of dollars from oil production every year, the local people living in the delta are trapped in desperate poverty. The name of the title "Sweet Crude", which originally refers to high-quality oil that has low levels of sulfur and hydrogen content, also ironically reflect the miserable living conditions of the Ogoni people.The director vividly records the history of a decades-long social resistance movement, initially led by The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), providing perspicacious insights into the multiple layers of the movement, including its divisions, failures, initiatives and philosophies. MOSOP, representing the interests and voices of Ogoni people, was founded in early 1980s, with the aim to pressurize the Nigerian government through non-violent protests and peaceful negotiations. The two fundamental demands from the MOSOP are (1) compensation for the environmental catastrophes caused by the oil industry and (2) autonomy over oil control. It has been estimated that between 9 million to 13 million barrels of oil have been spilled since drilling started in 1958 and these spills have greatly contaminated the local river system. On the one hand, the rampant contamination has greatly reduced the availability of drinking water and increased the possibility of spreading water-borne diseases, putting people's health at risk; on the other hand, it has also killed vast amount of the delta's fish, which serves as the major economic source for the Ogoni people traditionally. As for autonomy over oil control, like one of the protestors in the movie simply put, "It's our right, not a privilege" and the Ogoni people not only want their fair share of profits earned from oil production, but also want to have a say in the process of regulating oil production. [1: Nigeria oil cleanup could take 30 years, U.N. says, CNN News, August 4, 2011. (accessed on November 14, 2013)]The Nigerian government is not the only target of MOSOP; in fact, several protests were organized to specifically blame the irresponsible and rapacious actions of Shell, a multinational oil production company. However, these demonstrations were encumbered by relentless and aggressive government intervention, including banning of public gathering, imprisonment and execution of key protestors. Eventually, it is estimated that a total of around 2000 civilians were killed as a result. On November 1995, nine key leaders of the movement, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged in false charges of treason. This event has resulted in the division of MOSOP as...

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