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Wednesday AM May 19th, 2010

A documentary about the Niger Delta oil conflict is being screened in Houston next week. Ed Mayberry talked with the filmmaker about her award-winning film “Sweet Crude,” which even cost her a few days in a Nigerian jail.


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Sandy Cioffi and her film crew made international news in April 2008 when they were imprisoned by the Nigerian military as they shot footage for “Sweet Crude,” some of which was confiscated and never returned.  Most of the documentary follows the story of an oil worker held hostage by Niger Delta militants.  Cioffi says before his release, Macon Hawkins became sympathetic with people affected by Nigeria’s oil unrest.

“Basically, the Niger Delta in Nigeria is one of the richest oil-producing portions of the world, and yet the people who live there are some of the poorest in the world, and some of the poorest in Africa, which is really saying something.  While he was being held, they would bring him to the villages that they live in.  As an oil worker in the Niger Delta, he had never seen the squalor.  It’s sad that who gets pit against one another are the local people and the oil workers, and I think Macon saw that for what it was and when he came back to the U.S. he was actually very vocal about asking for people in the U.S. to care about the Niger Delta.”     

The film is having its theatrical premiere next week in Houston for a specific reason.

“Part of the reason we’re having it Tuesday is that it’s the night before the shareholders meeting.  I hope that people who work at Chevron will come to the screening, and I think a lot of very good people are workers and shareholders in oil companies.  We, yes, I actually have a couple of Chevron executives in the film, and I’m real happy about that.  I wish I had had more.  After principle photography was begun, they stopped participating with me and they wouldn’t give me another on-the-record interview, which is sad in my book, because I’d rather have their perspective.”

“Sweet Crude” will be at the Angelika Film Center next Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., followed by a panel featuring the filmmaker and the released hostage oil worker. 

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