The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez
The story of the Exxon Valdez and the 20-year legal battle to get restitution from ExxonMobil.
Directed by Robert Cornellier
Produced by Paul Carvalho and Robert Cornellier
Director of Photography: Robert Vanherweghem
Editors: Denis Boisvert, Marina Popova
Original Score: Serge Nicol
A MACUMBA DOC Production
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 99-minutes and 52-minutes.
"A stunning reminder of the havoc wreaked...by the grounding of the Exxon Valdez." Arthur R. Miller, University Professor, School of Law, New York University
In the early hours of March 24th 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil supertanker runs aground in Alaska. It discharges millions of gallons of crude oil. The incident becomes the biggest environmental catastrophe in North American history.
In a flash, dramatic images shoot across the planet. They show thousands of carcasses of seabirds and sea otters covered in oil. A thick black tide rises and covers the beaches of once-pristine Prince William Sound.
For twenty years, Riki Ott and the fishermen of the little town of Cordova, Alaska have waged the longest legal battle in U.S. history against the world's most powerful oil company - ExxonMobil. They tell us all about the environmental, social and economic consequences of the black wave that changed their lives forever.
This is the legacy of the Exxon Valdez.
Note: An excellent 20-page Teaching Guide and a 6-page Student Guide, both by Riki Ott, PhD are available.
Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2010
Copyright Date: 2008
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-924-0
VHS ISBN: 1-59458-923-2
"Black Wave is a stunning reminder of the havoc wreaked in Prince William Sound by the grounding of the Exxon Valdez, both on one of our nation's most beautiful waterways but on the lives of the people living there and the wildlife so essential to the area's beauty and economic life. It also makes graphic how Americans are at the mercy of large corporate entities who wield enormous power in our society. As someone who has been a lawyer and a law professor for more than 50 years, Black Wave sadly demonstrates how our civil justice system often falls short in delivering justice in a timely fashion."
Arthur R. Miller, University Professor, School of Law, New York University
"For the people of the area, the oil spill was an economic tragedy. A key theme of Black Wave is that enacting and enforcing environmental laws and regulations is good for the environment and the economy...Consequently, the film is appropriate for environmental courses focusing upon natural resources and environmental policy. The spill was made worse because Exxon was not prepared to respond to a major oil spill. Thus, the film could also be shown in a course focusing upon emergency preparedness."
Professor Browne Lewis, Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University, Author, It's Been 4380 Days And Counting Since Exxon Valdez: Is It Time To Change The Oil Pollution Act of 1990?
"The Exxon Valdez oil spill is a gut-wrenching story on several levels, but nowhere as much as on the human level - and that is the focus of this film. It tells the story of how our legal system is simply unable to respond to an ecological disaster that causes profound and widespread, but often intangible and indirect, harm to a community. The moral of the story is that the only way to deal with an oil spill like this is to prevent it from occurring in the first place."
Jeffrey Fisher, Associate Professor of Law, Stanford Law School
"Black Wave comes at just the right time: to remind us why oil drilling won't solve any of our problems, and to incite anger and action in response to the impending devastation along the Gulf Coast."
"Highly Recommended. In light of the most recent calamity, the BP spill off the Gulf of Mexico, this film is both chilling and alarming...Eighteen years after this disaster, there is still oil present in Prince William Sound. The townspeople attest that Exxon officials lied to them. They promised to make them whole again...The local people have lost faith in the government, corporations, justice and the court systems...This film would be useful for discussion in high school and college classrooms."
Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community College, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Timely...Disheartening and sadly relevant, this cautionary tale...is recommended."
"A commanding investigation...especially pertinent...Classes across the curriculum can utilize this program, and it should be included in all library collections."
School Library Journal
"Black Wave masterfully integrates original news footage, shocking statistics, and personal testimonies to produce a powerful indictment of corporate greed and irresponsibility. Robert Cornellier lays bare ExxonMobil's hypocrisy by exposing 20 years of tactics geared solely at avoiding responsibility for the worst environmental disaster in North American history. Meanwhile, the townspeople of Cordova fought and lost against ExxonMobil in the longest legal battle in US history, while the oil giant's annual profits rose from $5.2 to $40.6 billion. The verdict: in a world run by multinationals, citizens are on their own."
Lynne Fernie, Hot Docs Program
2 versions: the original 99-minute version and a 52-minute version, weblinks on the DVD-ROM part of the disc, plus scene selection for both versions, and SDH captions.
Excellent 20-page Teaching Guide by Riki Ott, PhD
Excellent Student Guide by Riki Ott, PhD
Awards and Festivals
Gemini Award (Canadian Emmy Awards), Best Direction in a Documentary Program
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Hot Docs, Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival
Countercorp Anti-Corporate Film Festival
Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, Montréal
Montreal Human Right Films Festival
International Human Rights Film Festival, Morocco
Calgary International Film Festival
Mardis de Courrier International, Paris
Festival des Libertés, Brussels
Amazonas Film Festival, Manaus, Brazil
Escales Documentaires, La Rochelle
Going Green Film Festival, Los Angeles
Grey Towers Environmental Film Festival
Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
Oceans and Coasts
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The oil and gas industry has historically dominated Louisiana politics and is largely responsible for the state's rapidly disappearing coastline.
A Concerned Citizen
Marine toxicologist, Dr. Riki Ott,who helped fishing communities hit by the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon spills, creates a civics course to help young activists become effective.
SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories
Investigates how the exploitation of Southern Louisiana's abundant natural resources compromised the resiliency of its ecology and culture, multiplying the devastating impact of the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina.
The Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced
Two scientific expeditions to Alaska, 100 years apart, give us an unparalleled view of environmental damage and the change in society's attitudes.
Looks at the battle over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the context of Alaska's accelerated warming.
When Is Enough, Enough?
A small Cree band in Alberta battles major oil companies for their land which lies on top of one of the world's richest oil deposits.
The New Rulers of the World
Award-winning journalist, John Pilger, investigates the realities of globalization by taking a close look at Indonesia.
Come Hell or High Water
When the graves of former slaves are bulldozed in Mississippi, a native son returns to protect the community they settled.
A Sea Change
Ocean acidification threatens over one million species with extinction--and with them, our entire way of life.
Scientists and religious leaders meet to find the solution to the Black Sea in crisis.
Swim for the River
The story of the Hudson, and the battle to save it, are told as Chris Swain swims the entire length of the river.
Drumbeat for Mother Earth
Toxic chemicals are the greatest threat to the survival of indigenous peoples.
Filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold use humor and chutzpah in their search for the environmental truth about vinyl.
In Our Own Backyard
First brush the U.S. had with toxic waste at Love Canal.
Addicted to Plastic
Reveals the history and worldwide scope of plastics pollution, investigates its toxicity and explores solutions.
Explores the links between the hundreds of toxic pollutants in our environment and increasing health problems.
A Sense of Wonder
Rachel Carson's love for the natural world and her fight to defend it.
Explores the relationship between breast cancer and exposure to toxic chemicals.