Sweet Crude is the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta – the human and environmental consequences of 50 years of oil extraction and the members of a new insurgency who, in the three years after the filmmakers met them as college students, became the young men of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Set against a stunning backdrop of Niger Delta footage, the film shows the humanity behind the statistics and sensationalized media portrayal of the region, gives voice to a complex mix of stakeholders and invites the audience to learn the deeper story.
Beginning with the filmmaker’s initial trip to document the building of a library in a remote village, Sweet Crude is a journey of multilayered revelation and ever-deepening questions. It’s about survival, corruption, greed and armed resistance. It’s about one place in one moment, with themes that echo many places throughout history.
The issues are local and human, yet they have far-reaching political, environmental and economic implications. It’s a powder-keg situation that affects the daily lives and futures of the people who live there. Left unchecked, its consequences will be felt around the globe. Yet barely anyone outside the Delta knows what’s really happening.
Why did we care enough to make this movie? Because raising awareness just might be the tipping point it takes to head off civil war. Because the kids of the Delta deserve a future. Because what happens in Nigeria ripples through African political stability and global economic markets. Because Nigeria produces nearly 10 percent of the U.S. oil supply. Ultimately, the events unfolding in the Niger Delta affect us all.
It will take a vigilant world community to advocate for nonviolent political solutions. With this independent documentary, we take a stand for a more truthful conversation, with the hope that a more educated public will hold governments and big oil accountable to peaceful and just resolution.
On April 12, 2008, members of the Sweet Crude filmmaking crew were detained by the Nigerian military Joint Task Force (JTF) while traveling by boat in the Niger Delta.
Seattle-based Director Sandy Cioffi, Producer Tammi Sims, and photojournalists Sean Porter and Cliff Worsham, along with Nigerian-American Joel Bisina, were taken into custody and subsequently handed over to the Nigerian State Security Services.
They were held for seven days without being charged and without access to legal counsel. They were released Friday, April 18.
U.S. lawmakers; a broad coalition of colleagues, family and friends; and many international individuals and organizations worked tirelessly with the U.S. State Department and the Nigerian government to secure their release.
Read press releases:
American film crew detained in Niger Delta
Update: American Documentary Filmmakers Detained in Niger Delta
U.S. Lawmakers Call on Nigerian President to Release Detained Filmmakers
Read letter from U.S. Congress members to Nigerian President Yar’Adua