Archive for June 1st, 2009

Important Sweet Crude update

June 1, 2009

This just in from Leslye Wood, producer of the documentary “Sweet Crude.” Leslye kept Seattle updated via Hot Splice when, in April 2008, Seattle-based filmmaker Sandy Cioffi and crew members Sean Porter, Tammi Sims and Cliff Worsham were picked up by the Nigerian military. and held in military prison for a week.

Leslye says:

The news from the Delta continues to be dire. It’s reported that the attacks have now spread to other states. The military is still denying free access in and out of the region, so it’s hard to get reliable casualty and refugee numbers. We do know that Oporoza, the village where much of Sweet Crude was filmed, was at least partially burned by the military.

And from her press release:

The film’s timeliness increased exponentially when the Nigerian military began bombing and burning civilian villages May 15 in an offensive they say is targeting militants. Much of Sweet Crude was filmed in one of these villages, Oporoza, where many buildings and homes were razed by the military. Senators Russ Feingold and John Kerry issued statements about the crisis on May 22. A letter signed by 15 concerned organizations, including Sweet Crude, was sent to the International Criminal Court May 19.

The SIFF screenings coincide with a landmark court case begun this week in New York – a suit against Shell Oil for complicity in the 1998 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other environmental activists in the Niger Delta.

“We made Sweet Crude to show the complexity of this place and the humanity of people typically represented to the world in highly sensationalized media coverage,” says Cioffi. “The situation is becoming more critical every day. This is a movie about issues unfolding as we speak; we hope it will communicate the urgency and inspire action. There’s an opportunity in this moment for our government and the international community to pay attention and press for political solutions that could avert war.”

On her fourth and last trip in April 2008, Cioffi, three members of her film crew and their Nigerian colleague who is featured in the film were detained by the Nigerian government in an attempt to suppress the story and held in military prison for a week. Their footage was confiscated. An international effort, including a letter signed by 14 U.S. lawmakers spearheaded by Senator Maria Cantwell, was mounted to secure their release.

Despite this setback, Cioffi went on to finish the film, which premiered in early April 2009 at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC to a standing ovation. A review from the New Raleigh includes this: “One film to really seek out is Sweet Crude, which covers the struggle by indigenous peoples in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region… Cioffi skillfully portrays a people with their backs against the wall… Cioffi’s film succeeds, not only because she humanizes the members of these oft-maligned resistance groups, but because she makes their approach seem like the only logical and available option. Sweet Crude was, hands down, the most fresh and interesting documentary I saw at Full Frame…”

Sweet Crude tells the largely unknown story behind today’s increasingly urgent headlines from a volatile region where people are desperate and unrest is growing. Fifty years of crude oil extraction has enriched the oil companies and Nigerian government, but left the residents impoverished in a decimated environment. After decades of nonviolent protest and unfulfilled promises, a growing militancy is kidnapping oil workers and sabotaging pipelines in an effort to be heard. Set against a stunning backdrop of Niger Delta footage, the film gives voice to the region’s complicated mix of stakeholders and invites the audience to learn the deeper story.

Currently more than 10 percent of U.S. oil comes from the Niger Delta, expected to grow to 25 percent by 2015. Ongoing destabilization of the region has cut its total oil exports by a quarter.

To learn more about Sweet Crude, visit
To learn more about the current military attacks, visit

The film plays SIFF June 3, 7:00pm at the Egyptian Theater; June 7, 1:30 pm at the Kirkland Performance Center; and June 13, 1:30 pm at the Egyptian. Director Sandy Cioffi will be there for a Q&A, as will many of the Seattle based production crew.

More information about the situation in the Niger Delta can be found here:

What’s new for the ‘What’s in the Barn?’ Team?

June 1, 2009

Here’s an update on the 2006 Local Sightings Film Festival short film winners:

May 30, 2009 in Washington Voices
Spokane filmmakers let their imaginations run wild
Jennifer Larue

If you didn’t know what was going on, your imagination would certainly run wild. Their hours are sporadic, not 9-to-5, and they are often carrying odd things like a stuffed chicken, a petrified squirrel or a bag of bones into the old warehouse on the North Side of Spokane.

If you go around back and peer through the fence into the yard area, piles of rusty cans and strange twisted things might make you wonder if Frankenstein’s monster is lying on a slab inside. If you are so lucky as to be spying when the back industrial door is opened and get a peek inside, you would probably think that you’re “not in Kansas anymore.”

It is recognizably a kitchen and a grand room with a fireplace, but not the kind you would find in an ordinary house; rather, in the dreams/nightmares of Tim Burton or Dr. Seuss. It is created chaos – askew, twisted and melted. It is the set made for Head Juice Production’s latest short film.

“Our current project is an attempt to channel the ideals of German expressionism into a modern work. Everything on the set was made to be recognizable but distorted and twisted, re-imagined to such a degree as to make them hardly recognizable as their functional counterparts in the real world,” said Mike Corrigan.

Corrigan, Derrick King, Travis Hiibner, and Gary McLeod are the filmmakers that make up Head Juice, a production company that began in 2004. The quartet does not work in video but film – 8mm and 16mm. “We’ve all admitted to ourselves that were it not for film, with its beautiful luminescent qualities, depth of field, serendipitous and unpredictable nature, and richness of tone, none of us would even be making films. It’s the pleasure, the thrill, the privilege of working with such a magical, physical medium that gives us the rush, and that binds us together as a filmmaking team,” Corrigan said.

The team has made a few films including “What’s in the Barn?” which won first place in a short film competition at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle. The prize – $2,500 and some free equipment rental – has helped fund Head Juice’s recent production, which is yet to be titled. “It’s a Grimm’s style fairy tale that will incorporate many styles of filmmaking,” Hiibner said.

Working with film is more difficult than video and requires sharp filmmaking skills. Video is easier because you can do re-takes as often as needed and it’s cheaper. Film is hand-processed, often in buckets in a darkroom.

“Time and money is always an obstacle with a project – even the smallest film becomes incredibly expensive and difficult. We use equipment that barely functions and most resources that support film are not local, so Seattle is a common journey,” Hiibner said. “One thing working to our advantage is a creative bunch of friends with the same mindset and love of art. These friends are our actors, resources, and support. They are wonderful and we are forever grateful, plus they work for cheap (beer and food). Without them it just wouldn’t be possible.”

The four filmmakers are attracted to experimental/avant-garde filmmaking where rules hardly exist, giving free rein to the imagination.

“What we really love about film is that it encompasses so many different forms of art.” McLeod said. “Writing, composing music, acting, photography, painting, design and many more elements must all come together to make a strong film. Anywhere there is a weak link it really brings down the quality of the entire piece. That makes film making very challenging. What makes it rewarding is that if you do it right you will captivate people and they will be drawn in and lose themselves in your art.”

Head Juice hopes to have their experimental fairy tale completed by September.