Oil & WaterDirector:
Francine Strickwerda & Laurel Spellman Smith
When Hugo Lucitante was 10 years old, his tribe made a desperate decision. Fearing extinction, they sent Hugo to be educated in the U.S., in hopes that he would return to lead them into a better future. A decade later, we follow Hugo as he returns to the Ecuadorian Amazon to meet his destiny, armed only with a high school diploma.
David Poritz was just a sixth grader when he learned of the oil disaster in Hugo's homeland. With the blessing of his mother, David started a humanitarian project that led him away from his home in Amherst, Massachusetts to spend much of his youth in the Amazon.
The two teenagers meet by chance during a shared canoe ride, and then again, when David leads his American high school classmates on a tour of the 18 billion gallons of oil waste that Texaco left on Hugo's ancestral lands. The area's people experience unexplainable rashes, childhood deformities and ballooning cancer rates. We follow the boys on this journey, and then back to the U.S. as their lives and the situation in Ecuador get more complicated.
David, now a college student, launches the world's first international company to certify oil as fair-trade, meaning that it is drilled in a safer more ethical way. He and his eight employees are in the process of certifying their first customer, Petroamazonas, the state-controlled oil company of Ecuador. By next year they expect to introduce a new line of gasoline pumps selling fair-trade gas at test stations across the U.S.
David's approach could be a whopping game changer for the oil industry. And anyone following the massive BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico knows that it's time for a change. Our film follows what could be a revolution, and it's being led by a 21-year-old.
We see Hugo struggle with culture shock, the demands of learning to be a Cofan tribal leader, and also becoming a husband. He marries Sadie, a Lebanese-American girl and she moves from Seattle to make a home with Hugo in the jungle. Financial pressures cause Hugo to consider taking a job with an oil company, even as oil prospectors push deeper into the rainforest.
Can Hugo become the leader his tribe so desperately wants him to be? Will David clean up one of the world's dirtiest industries? We'll follow these significant turning points in the lives of David and Hugo to bring a powerful conclusion to an already astonishing story.
About the director
Francine Strickwerda directs, produces and writes documentary films and Web sites. She co-directed the award winning health documentary, Busting Out, which aired on Showtime, and she was a producer on national and local PBS programs including Affluenza and Escape from Affluenza. She produced and executive edited national PBS Web sites including Don't Buy It, Videogame Revolution, and Exploring Space, and was a senior producer at HealthTalk.com.
Her corporate video clients have included the United Nations, Fortune 500 companies and the Seattle Fire Department. Francine began her career as a reporter for newspapers in Washington and Idaho.
Laurel Spellman Smith is a two-time regional Emmy Award-winning producer of national and local programs for PBS including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and the critically acclaimed feature documentary, Faith & Fear: The Children of Krishna and the Iraq War documentary The Corpora's Diary, seen on PBS stations, Al Jazeera and Link TV.
She became an independent producer in 2001 joining producing partner Francine Strickwerda to start their film company, Stir It Up Productions. Together they co-directed/produced the award-winning women's health documentary Busting Out for Showtime and are currently in production with Oil & Water.
In addition to directing, she is an annual juror for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. She's also a weekly volunteer at Dress For Success where she is a personal dresser for low income and homeless women needing clothes for job interviews. Laurel got her degree in film/cultural anthropology from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and now lives in downtown Seattle with her husband and cat.