“CRUDE” director, Joe Berlinger
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Sunday, Jan. 18, 6:00 pm — Temple Theatre, Park City]
As someone who believes in making non-fiction feature films for the big screen, Crude is in many ways a reaction against some of the forces affecting cinema today. From a craft standpoint, Crude is steeped in the traditions of cinema vérité filmmaking that I have embraced throughout my career — it’s a film with a great deal of complexity and nuance, requiring a viewer’s full attention in order to appreciate all that I hope it has to offer. While new forms of distribution are important for independent filmmakers like me to consider and perhaps embrace for the appropriate story, I believe that watching this particular film on an iPod or a cell phone would be a significantly inferior experience than seeing it on a big screen, despite the challenges for theatrical documentaries in the current economic environment.
In fact, Crude was a conscious attempt to return to my roots making Brother’s Keeper almost 20 years ago (made with my frequent collaborator Bruce Sinofsky). As we did back then, we just dove into a subject that we wanted to film without worrying about how we were going to pay for it or who was going to show it. (Crude didn’t get funded until we’d been shooting for nearly a year). The last few years of my career have been marked by bigger budget projects like Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and several high-profile TV series, including Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel. I felt I was drifting from that internal fire that excites me to make a film for the love of the process and the desire to tell a certain story for a big-screen audience. It was also a return to a kind of handmade, DIY filmmaking for me, largely because of the massive scope of this story and the kinds of locations we were shooting in made it something of a guerilla effort. Despite this back-to-basics approach, I was constantly aware of how I never would have been able to make this film 20 years ago. Today’s technology and increasingly global focus make it possible to tell a story on the epic scale on which this film unfolds (we shot on three continents, in literally dozens of cities), and do it on a tight documentary budget.
So while I would not allow the realities of new distribution models to affect the concept of my “story,” it doesn’t mean that the film does not address these issues. Crude consciously observes how our shrinking global village — a phenomenon fueled primarily by technology — is forcing us to confront a past in which information moved around the world more slowly, making it much easier to put people and places out of sight and therefore out of mind. It also asks us to question how we use technology and how the choices we make today can affect our fellow human beings and the world we all share.