(Photos courtesy Stir It Up Productions; above, Francine at left, Laurel at right)
By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
West Seattle filmmaker Francine Strickwerda and her business partner Laurel Spellman Smith are freelance filmmakers focusing on social and environmental issues. Their latest work-in-progress is “Oil and Water,” focusing on two young men fighting the presence of oil companies in the Amazon rainforest, with a screening planned this Thursday at the Duwamish Longhouse in West Seattle.
Francine calls it a “David and Goliath” story:
The official description of “Oil and Water” includes: “One of the film’s main characters is Hugo Lucitante, a graduate of Blanchet High School in Seattle. He is a member of the endangered Cofan tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In 1997, Lucitante’s tribe made a desperate decision to send the boy, then 10, to the U.S. to be educated. The tribe hoped that he would return home to someday lead his people to a better future. In 2006, he went back to Ecuador, armed only with his high-school diploma. From 1972 to 1992, the Cofan tribe in Ecuador saw their land be destroyed by Texaco’s [now Chevron] careless oil extraction methods – techniques so dangerous to human health that the U.S. outlawed them long ago. A lawsuit, potentially the largest environmental case ever fought, has been filed on behalf of 30,000 affected Ecuadorians.”
Hugo, one of the film’s two main characters, lived in West Seattle while studying at Blanchet. Francine caught up with him after reading about him in the Seattle Times and decided his story would make a good documentary. “It’s a wonderful thing to take a complicated issue and tell it through the eyes of (this boy.) When disasters happen so far away, it’s hard for us to relate. Plus, he’s a nice person and has a big back story…we wanted to make a film that inspires people to do something and features young role models.”
“Oil and Water” was made possible through a CityArtist Project grant from the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, has taken four years to create and is still only 60% completed; the screening will show about 25 minutes from the film.
Asked about the long timeline for the film, Francine answers, “We get so excited that we commit ourselves to it … all our play hours go into the project.”
The screening begins at 7 pm Thursday (October 14), but the Duwamish Longhouse will open the doors at 5:30 p.m. for guests to explore the Cultural Center’s exhibits and purchase fry bread and beverages. Parking is limited at the Longhouse and carpooling is encouraged. Additional parking is available at the Seattle Parks Department facility at 4209 West Marginal Way SW (map), four blocks north of the Longhouse.
For more information about the film, visit Stir It Up Productions.