About the film
Ifie and I are in Amsterdam this week as Poison Fire competes at IDFA, the world’s biggest documentary film festival. We’ve shown the film twice in sold-out cinema theaters. Three more screenings remain. After each show there is a questions and answers sessions. The IDFA audience is wonderful and I wish these Q&A sessions could go on for hours instead of just the 10-15 minutes we get after each show.
So let’s continue here. I will start with the two most common questions that we get all the time
Q: Have you shown the film to Shell?
A: Yes we have. We posted a trailer and some earlier versions of the film to the website for some time, and within days we had hundreds of hits from ip numbers that belong to Shell. We assume that the film has been discussed within the company.
The Poison Fire documentary grew out of a participatory video training project by Environmental Rights Action. The idea was to establish video production capacity with a network of volunteers in the communities, and enable them to produce and publish "video testimonies" to the web, and eventually a system for crowdsourcing environmental monitoring info. Although there is still great interest in the project from communities and some state government agencies, it has not yet taken off due to lack of funding and a central base or hub for the network.
The following article on the method was published in ICT update, November 2006
From The Ecologist: Poison Fire Interview
by Phil Moore 11/09/2008
Filmmaker Lars Johansson talks to the Ecologist about the making of the film 'Poison Fire' and the curse of oil in the Niger Delta.
Tell us how you came to make the film ‘Poison Fire’
Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) wanted to encourage national groups to produce video reports with local perspectives on how economic globalisation influences communities. They contacted me because they had heard about the work I had been doing in Tanzania with ‘participatory video’. A proposal was put together with Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and FOEI managed to raise funds so that I could go there.
What is gas flaring and why does it occur?
Africa, oil, climate change, globalisation, repression, violence, rights. Poison fire shows some of the world's most urgent challenges in a microcosm – the strained relationship between the oil industry and local communities in Nigeria's Niger Delta.
Ifie is a local artist, feminist and environmental activist who works to promote dialog between the communities, the oil industry, and the federal government. She travels around the Delta with her younger (and considerably less polished) aunt Tina, to record "video testomonies" on the environmental impact of Shell's oil exploitation. People show them gas flaring sites, where the natural gas produced along with oil is simply burned off – wasted. They visit creeks and fish ponds literally filled with spilled oil. They see a violent fire from a wellhead explosion that has been burning for months, and blackened mangrove swamps where oil continues to seep up from spills long ago.