THE STORY BEHIND A COURT RULING
“Documentary filmmakers fear more legal challenges in Trump era”
The writer correctly states that in 2010, a federal judge ordered documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger to turn over hundreds of hours of footage and outtakes from his film Crude after a request from Chevron. However, you neglect to mention that the outtakes provided evidence of misbehavior by the plaintiffs’ lead attorney Steven Donziger, expert witnesses, and Ecuadorean officials in a lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador.
In ordering the footage be turned over, the court found that Berlinger’s outtakes were not shielded by “journalists’ privilege.” The court explained that, because Berlinger’s film was solicited by the plaintiffs “for the purpose of telling their story, and that changes to the film were made at their instance, Berlinger failed to carry his burden of showing that he collected information for the purpose of independent reporting and commentary.” The court also found that information contained in the footage could not be considered “confidential.”
To confuse Berlinger’s movie with independent journalism is a distortion. The footage might still be on Berlinger’s cutting-room floor had the court not enabled the truth to be exposed.
General Manager, Public Affairs
Read original letter on the Columbia Journalism Review, click here.