Documenting disaster: review of indie documentary A Crude Injustice

Documentary film review: A Crude Injustice

Dir: Jane Hammond

The great thing about documentaries is that they enable you to go deeper into the story. You might see something of interest on the news but then it's gone the next day and there's not much more info on the story. A Crude Injustice takes us deeper into the story of a catastrophic oil leak in the Timor Sea in 2009.

The central characters in this tale are the people of West Timor who are still living with the consequences of an aquaculture industry decimated by crude oil and the dispersants used to treat it. The oil was spewing from an oil rig owned and operated by the company PTTEP. While accepting responsibility for the leak the company claims that it is highly improbable that the oil ever made landfall in West Timor.


A Crude Injustice is a simple story. The relatively short run time of 26 minutes is the perfect length to cover all the salient points. You have interviews with the seaside residents of small villages in West Timor, the investigation by Australian scientists and environmentalists who are trying to establish how far the spilled oil has traveled, and an introduction to the class action being launched through the Australian courts.

The film fits neatly into the activist genre and funding and support from The Wilderness Society comes as no surprise. A Crude Injustice has that nimble, tread lightly documentary feel to it - journalistic. The story is the real hero of the film and everything else has been stripped back to let it speak for itself. Having said that, the soundtrack is somewhat overbearing at times.


A highlight of the film is footage directly from one of the affected fishermen, Gab Oma, who discovered the oil while out on his fishing boat before he even knew there had been an accident on the rig. It is this direct connection with the consequences of the spill that really establishes the value of the film.

I'm sure there will be more to the story as the court case wends its way through the justice system. A Crude Injustice tells the tragic tale of people who are self-sufficient and successful who have seen their livelihoods and communities devastated by a company that refuses to accept responsibility. As the film makes its way into festivals and living rooms, and onto screens around the world hopefully those responsible for this disaster will look at the West Timorese people and really see, see the consequences that their disregard has wrought to date.

A Crude Injustice is a must-see for anyone interested in human rights, international relations, and the environmental impact of large corporations.