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.