NEW YORK — A US court on Wednesday heard arguments in a controversial case in which Chevron is seeking 600 hours of footage shot for a film about the oil giant's alleged environmental abuses in Ecuador.
Joe Berlinger, director of the film "Crude," lodged the appeal before a federal court in New York seeking to have a May ruling in favor of Chevron overturned.
Chevron says the unseen footage from the documentary is crucial to its attempt to fight a lawsuit in Ecuador, where the company is being sued over alleged massive environmental contamination in the Amazon jungle.
Berlinger, backed by a coalition of actors and US news organizations, argues that the ruling casts a chill over documentary making and independent probes into the activities of multinational corporations.
Dole Food Company has come out in support of Chevron.
Berlinger's supporters, who range from Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio to ABC television and The New York Times, argue that constitutionally protected freedom of speech is at stake.
"The battle lines have been drawn between a major oil company accused of human rights abuses and the rights of the journalistic and artistic communities to expose corporate misconduct," said Ilann Maazel, who represents 30,000 Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing Chevron for allegedly pouring billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest.
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