By Paul E McGinniss
Delta Boys is a must-see film about Niger Delta militant rebels who are fighting government and environmental oppression in oil-rich Nigeria. Award-winning filmmaker, Andrew Berends, who was arrested in Nigeria during the filming of this documentary, bravely crosses the lines of Nigeria's oil conflict to bear witness to the lives of the militants engaged in the bloody struggle and the civilians caught in the crossfire.
Nigeria, Africa's most populated country, is the fifth largest oil supplier to America. No matter how far away this problem seems, it is something much closer to home than most of us want to believe. As we nervously watch the price of gasoline go up at the pumps, we try to forget where it comes from and at what cost.
While focusing on the rebels living in the Niger Delta where hundreds of millions of dollars of oil is extracted every year, Delta Boys reveals the impoverished lives of all who reside in the Niger Delta. The area has been destroyed by the oil industry and the Nigerian government. They turn a blind eye to the hundreds of oil spills that occur every year and the ongoing suffering of the indigenous population.
It's no surprise that some have raised arms to rebel given the crimes perpetrated against them. The Washington Post reported that in December 2011 about 40,000 barrels of crude oil leaked between a floating storage vessel and an oil tanker in a Royal Dutch Shell field off the coast of Nigeria.
Reuters recently reported: "An oil spill near an ExxonMobil oilfield off the southeast coast of Nigeria has spread along the shore for about 15 miles, and locals said it was killing fish they depend upon to live."
While I am not a supporter of violent protest, it's hard not to have some compassion for the rebels involved in the conflict. Nigerians who live on the Delta can no longer fish and live off the land. There are no schools. There are no jobs. There are no hospitals or healthcare. There are no adequate roads. Despite billions of dollars pumped, (or should I say pimped?), out of the ground, oil rich executives and government officials seem not to be human enough to be concerned about the pollution, help the local population or share even a small fraction of the wealth. Perhaps the powers that be hope the common people living in the Niger Delta will just die off and leave an invisible wasteland while continuing to line their pockets with the dirty money from the oil industry.
In the end, Delta Boys is a film not just about oil conflict in Nigeria, it is also a damning reveal about the international oil industry's devastating social and environmental policies across the globe and the complicit, corrupt governments who partner with them to pump oil, no matter the social or environmental cost.
In the same vein as The Big Fix, a masterful cinematic expose about the devastating BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Crude, a film chronicling the devastation wrought by the oil industry in Equador, Delta Boys is yet another wake up call for the world to encourage finding a better way to fuel itself.
But, have we really heard the wake up call? I think not. Since the BP spill, there have been many more oil spills around the world and they all seem to go largely unnoticed. Did anyone really pay attention to the 2011 oil spill in the North Sea? Or the Spring 2012 Natural Gas leak in the North Sea spewed a stream of toxic natural gas into the air for months and created miles and miles of a toxic poison "sheen" around the well?
Closer to home, how many of us even remember that in 2010, after the BP Horizon Spill, a pipeline break in Michigan sent 819,000 gallons of toxic tar sands sludge sliding into the Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River? The LA Times reported: "Before the spill, many residents weren't even aware a pipeline ran through their community. And Government investigators concluded that the pipeline's Canadian owner, Enbridge Inc., knew about the crack that led to the spill five years before the accident."
Is any of this teaching us a lesson? Seems like we're stuck in a kind of "Ground Hog Day" film scenario where we wake up and make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Recently, the New York Times reported: "In late August 2012, the Interior Department granted Shell permission to begin preparatory work on its first well in the Arctic Ocean, moving the company a critical step forward on its tortuous quest to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska."
Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, it does not matter. The toxic legacy of the oil and gas industry continues to haunt us. No matter your political persuasion, sticking your head under the tar sands and pretending how we fuel the planet doesn't effect us isn't going to work anymore.
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
Delta Boys premiers Oct. 16 on leading digital platforms and storefronts through Sundance Institute Artists Services Program and Cinedigm Entertainment Group.