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  • Nov 3-5

Black Wave — The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez

black wave the legacy of the exxon valdez documentary film

In the ear­ly hours of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil super­tanker ran aground in Alas­ka, dis­charg­ing mil­lions of gal­lons of crude oil and thus becom­ing the biggest envi­ron­men­tal cat­a­stro­phe in North Amer­i­can his­to­ry. In a flash, dra­mat­ic images shot across the plan­et: thou­sands of car­cass­es of dead seabirds and sea otters cov­ered in oil, a thick black tide ris­ing and cov­er­ing the beach­es of once-pris­tine Prince William Sound. For the next 20 years, Riki Ott and the fish­er­men of the lit­tle town of Cor­do­va, Alas­ka, waged the longest legal bat­tle in U.S. his­to­ry against Exxon­Mo­bil, the world’s most pow­er­ful oil com­pa­ny.  In this com­pelling doc­u­men­tary, we learn about the envi­ron­men­tal, social and eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of the black wave that changed their lives and the lives of thou­sands of peo­ple for­ev­er.  And we learn that the hor­rif­ic lega­cy of the Exxon Valdez still lives today.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez dis­as­ter might seem like his­to­ry to many, but this pow­er­ful film makes it clear that the fall­out from this event is far from over. When the Exxon oil tanker crashed on Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling its tox­ic load into the ocean, Exxon­Mo­bil pledged respon­si­bil­i­ty and a thor­ough cleanup.  In Black Wave, Direc­tor Rob Cor­nel­li­er expos­es a mad­den­ing his­to­ry of cal­lous behav­ior on the part of Exxon­Mo­bil that has left ordi­nary peo­ple pay­ing the cost while the oil com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to reap bil­lions in prof­its every year.

The legal bat­tle between the peo­ple of the town of Cor­do­va, Alas­ka, and the world’s most pow­er­ful oil com­pa­ny has dragged out for over two decades. There have been many casu­al­ties along the way, includ­ing sui­cides, divorces, and bank­rupt­cies. In addi­tion to the stag­ger­ing human toll, entire species have been dec­i­mat­ed, and the oil can still be found on the beaches.

The gor­geous cin­e­matog­ra­phy, stir­ring music, and pow­er of Black Wave’s nar­ra­tive ease the heartache that comes from visu­al­ly wit­ness­ing such an enor­mous, man-made, pre­ventable dis­as­ter. Although the film has won many awards inter­na­tion­al­ly, it has not yet received the atten­tion that it deserves here in the Unit­ed States.

Run­ning time:  1 hour 39 minutes.