Film Review: Midnight and the Rooster’s Crow (2005, Nadja Drost)

Film Review: Midnight and the Rooster’s Crow (2005, Nadja Drost) by Edward Adplanalp, 2006, International Third World Studies Journal and Review, Volume XVII
In Between Midnight and The Rooster’s Crow (2005), a determined first-time Canadian filmmaker Nadja Drost gets up close to the domination of the natural environment of Ecuador and its beautiful people. Her documentary, which was filmed in Ecuador in 2003, gives the viewer a piercing glimpse at how the Calgary based EnCana Corporation tries to portray itself as a good corporate citizen, while at the same time behaving as a shameless oil and gas giant that has lost its moral compass. … Drost’s film, which was made on a shoestring budget of $35,000, seems to confirm what some claim: that this has led to a destructive climate of opportunistic cronyism in which the Ecuadorian government will aid and abet transnational corporations in the trampling of human rights and the natural environment.

Then, in April of 2002, AEC and PanCanadian Energy merged to form Encana, which is now Canada’s biggest company. … How ironic it is that the lexicon of today’s corporate management is filled with phrases such as “corporate responsibility,” and “stewardship.” One must ask: wouldn’t being a responsible steward entail the ability to maintain and sustain good relationships with important corporate stakeholders such as members of the local community and the natural environment? The habitual capitalist pattern of make-a-quick-buck-and-run continued in 2005 when EnCana—whose 2004 earnings were a whopping $3.5 billion (U.S.)—sold its assets in Ecuador to the Chinese for $1.42 billion (U.S.). … As Between Midnight and The Rooster’s Crow demonstrates, the environmental impact on the local people is truly appalling. … Drost documents crude oil leaking into the now noxious rivers, and interviews locals swearing that eating river fish tastes like eating pure crude. It appears as though while the oil companies have reaped their record profits, skyrocketing cancer, broken promises, miscarriage, and skin disease have been the dividends paid to the local populace. When the Amazonian locals decide to take direct action to ensure that their interests are not overlooked, the military and police step in with an excessive amount of force to ensure that nothing stops corporate profit (oil) from flowing. Drost—giving the viewer a candid glimpse at the seedy underbelly of corporate globalization—interviews a man who, while peacefully protesting at a roadblock with a group of locals who were demanding clean water, sewage, electricity, and jobs, was shot by Ecuadorian soldiers. Given that the soldiers who shot him were flown into EnCana’s private airport, picked up by EnCana trucks who were driven by EnCana drivers, one must wonder how Gwyn Morgan (President and CEO of EnCana—and before that President and CEO of AEC since 1994) keeps a straight face when he comments, at the end of the film: “People fail to understand how little influence companies have on government.”

The viewer gets the full flavor of bureaucratic crony capitalism when a local man gives Nadja contaminated water from a recent EnCana spill. He laments that EnCana—who claims it wants to be a good corporate citizen—placed the community in harm’s way by failing to notify the local residents after the spill. Drost then takes the polluted water to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, but is told that they no longer handle such spills and that she should go to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Energy and Mines. When Drost interviews an official at the Ministry of Energy and Mines, she is told that there are sanctions that could be given, but that the Ministry of Energy and Mines cannot enforce them. …  Not only is the Ecuadorian wilderness being despoiled by EnCana, the frustrated citizens do not have any real legal channel available to defend themselves from the corporate leviathan. One of the most preposterous events documented in Between Midnight and The Rooster’s Crow, then, is when EnCana appears to be quite proud of an award it received from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment for its excellent community and environmental work. The natives take it to be a farce and pure blandishment—they were not consulted to see if EnCana deserved the award. The local explanation for how EnCana could possibly receive such an award is that: “it happened between midnight and a rooster’s crow.”

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