Important Sweet Crude update


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:


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