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Oil and Water

OIL & WATER is the coming of age story of two boys as they each confront one of the world's worst toxic disasters, the prolonged contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon by Texaco and other oil companies. Hugo comes to America to fight for the survival of his tribe, the Cofan, while David goes to Ecuador to launch the world's first company to certify oil as 'fair trade.' Can Hugo become the leader his tribe so desperately wants him to be? Will David clean up one of the world's dirtiest industries?

This film is an intimate portrait of two young people finding their voices and trying to beat incredible odds. Their journeys lead them to explore what could be a more just future, not just for the people of the Amazon, but for all people around the world born with oil beneath their feet. Eight years in the making OIL & WATER is a shocking and inspiring David and Goliath story.

'An important film--it puts a human face on the very real and severe consequences of our thirst for oil. Yet it also gives viewers hope in the way it shows how two young adults can make meaningful changes to the world around them.' Dr. Benjamin Sovacool, Director of Danish Center for Energy Technology, AU-Herning, Associate Professor of Law, Founding Director of the Energy Security and Justice Program, Vermont Law School, Author, Energy and Ethics: Justice and the Global Energy Challenge

'Oil and Water offers no easy solutions to the problems of oil contamination and the presence of the oil industry in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Instead, this documentary searches for answers through the lives, pressures and actions of two young men, who are growing up with a heavy burden of decision: to negotiate, to regulate or to resist the oil companies. Watch it, and ask yourself: how could I resolve the ongoing injuries of oil? Then remember that these two young men are working and studying to be the leaders that they want to be--in order to solve the harms of an industry, or ills that were not created by them and in many cases that predate them.' Patricia Widener, Associate Professor of Sociology, Florida Atlantic University, Author, Oil Injustice: Resisting and Conceding a Pipeline in Ecuador

'Oil and Water immerses the viewer in the at once captivating and complex experiences of society and oil in one of the world's most biodiverse places on the planet, the Ecuadorian Amazon. Unlike other analyses on the topic, this film does not demonize or simplify the oil industry or indigenous peoples. Rather, it brings the very human connections we all have to each other and to the planet, including with petroleum resources, to the forefront and presents hopeful global and local solutions to pathways beyond fossil fuels. Students, educators, policymakers, and industry experts will not only learn from this film, but will hopefully be inspired by it to create real change.' Dr. Pamela Martin, Professor of Politics, Director of Model United Nations Program, Coastal Carolina University, Author, Oil in the Soil: The Politics of Paying to Preserve the Amazon

'Great film...arresting...Oil and Water is the most complete portrait of how societies might move beyond 'the oil curse' to use resources from crude development to benefit the local communities from which it is found. Or, possibly, as a launching point to standardize and regulate best practices in the entire industry...It is a story of recovery but also of the need for aggressive assistance and understanding. Oil and Water puts a very human face on the ground-level of the extraction that is fueled by distant consumers.' Dr. Brian Black, Professor, History and Environmental Studies, Penn State Altoona, Author, Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History

'This a moving and thought-provoking story that opens up avenues of hope in a challenging reality.' Patricia I. Vasquez, Independent Consultant on Extractive Industries and Conflicts, Author, Oil Sparks in the Amazon: Local Conflicts, Indigenous Populations, and Natural Resources

'This film offers a compelling narrative of the unique social, cultural, and activism experiments of two young men whose political commitments are entangled with the complex and dangerous system of oil production in Ecuador...[This is] a sophisticated argument about why such struggles matter and why their stories should be shared. In the words of David Poritz, the experiments of the Cofan and Equitable Origins have been launched to address a very real issue: the 'indirect genocide' of oil. The question is no longer whether it is possible to talk about sustainable oil; the question is how to make it a reality.' Gabriela Valdivia, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

'Oil and Water reveals the social and ecological trauma of our global fossil fuel culture and how it shapes the lives of an indigenous population in Ecuador. The film also demonstrates the collaborative, visionary creativity that can also emerge from that space of pain, urgency, and love for humanity and our life support systems. I have followed the struggle of the Cofan people for decades and just when I thought all hope was lost, this film gives me reason for renewing my conviction in the power of struggle, the power of the people hit hardest by environmental injustice - and their allies - to imagine and forge new possibilities.' David Naguib Pellow, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Author, Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice

'Oil and Water is a masterful depiction of the intractable dilemmas and irresolvable contradictions that haunt the lives of those entangled by oil extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon and beyond. This film undauntedly delves into the challenges posed by our hydrocarbon times and boldly raises more questions than it answers. It promises to be an incisive tool for generating critical discussion on the politics of petroleum.' Suzana Sawyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California at Davis, Author, Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador

'It's a tale of crusaders but of crusaders sometimes in conflict; Poritz and Lucitante are both committed to helping Ecuador's rain forests and indigenous tribes, but at times they disagree about the best way to do that...Lucitante wanted battle. Poritz favored collaboration. But Poritz says both strategies are pieces of the same puzzle.' Sacha Pfeiffer and Kathleen McNerney, Radio Boston

'A powerful and appealing documentary film...The connection between Hugo and David takes the documentary into a personal life that is fascinating in its portrayal of the Cofan culture and environment.' Floyd McKay, Crosscut

'If one ever needed proof that the universe has a hand in shaping our life's path, it can be found in the documentary film Oil and Water...Riveting.'

'Highly recommended.' The Midwest Book Review


Main credits

Strickwerda, Francine (film producer)
Strickwerda, Francine (film director)
Strickwerda, Francine (screenwriter)
Smith, Laurel Spellman (film director)
Smith, Laurel Spellman (film producer)
Smith, Laurel Spellman (screenwriter)

Other credits

Editor, Tracy Dethlefs; cinematography, Diana Wilmar, Laurel Spellman Smith; original score, Erik Aho; animation, Drew Christie.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Business Practices
Conflict Resolution
Developing World
Environmental Justice
Fair Trade
Forests and Rainforests
Global Issues
Human Rights
Indigenous Peoples
International Trade
Latin American Studies
Political Science
Social Justice
Toxic Chemicals


oil drilling, oil contamination, Ecuadorian Amazon, Ecuador, toxic disaster, Texaco, oil companies, cancer, Cofan people, Hugo Lucitante, David Poritz, fair trade oil, pipeline, oil industry, Petroamazonas, Equitable Origin; "Oil and Water"; Bullfrog Films,doc,env; politics; sociss