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Aussie documentary filmmaker shines a light on oil spill disaster

Aussie documentary filmmaker shines a light on oil spill disaster

Aussie documentary filmmaker shines a light on oil spill disaster

A powerful new film highlights the grave environmental injustice of the Montara oil spill almost 10 years on.

As a teenager, Jane Hammond could be found joining protests to fight for endangered forests and to save the whales, to protest against nuclear weapons and nuclear warships visiting Australia in her native Fremantle, WA. She grew up to become a journalist, often covering environmental issues. Now, her two loves have been married in her first film, A Crude Injustice.

What is the film about?

A Crude Injustice tells the story of the aftermath of Australia’s biggest offshore environmental disaster – the Montara oil spill – and its ongoing impact on the people of West Timor.

How were the West Timorese fishermen, seaweed farmers and their families affected by the oil spill?

The oil spread to their waters, and they had to make do any way they can with a significantly reduced income from their devastated seaweed farms. They received no compensation for the loss of their livelihoods. The seaweed farmers have launched a $200 million class action in the Australian courts, scheduled to begin early next year in Sydney.

Why did you make the film?

I was working as a journalist for The West Australian newspaper when the blowout on the Montara oil rig happened on August 21, 2009. Thousands of barrels of oil leaked for close to 10 weeks. I knew it had to be told in the voices of those impacted and that film was the best way to do this – so I went to film school.

Why was it so important to get this film made?

It was a grave environmental injustice yet most Australians knew nothing about it. I thought that if they could hear about this issue and meet the people on screen who have been impacted by this injustice then they would be moved to pressure the Australian Government for justice.

How did you finance it?

I did most things myself so that cut costs significantly. I can travel on the smell of an oily rag and don’t need luxuries so that made things easier. The hardest things were clearing the bureaucratic hurdles like visa applications and forms with the Indonesian Government.

How has the film been received?

The film has been shown in more than 25 festivals around the world and picked up several awards. I even took it to the US, where it was a winner at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards.

Jane Hammond and husband, Shane, at the Soma Film Festival in Newark, US.

How has your family supported you?

They never complained when I disappeared for days into the haze of editing, working 20-hour days in my pyjamas and leaving everyone to their own devices in terms of cooking meals and cleaning up.

My daughter Lucy tells me when to say ‘no’ to people and when to seize an opportunity. My youngest son Sol attends rallies and helps me with my environmental campaigning. He is studying environmental science at university.

My oldest son Cooper supports me from afar as he currently lives overseas.

My husband Shane keeps me sane and advises me on so many things. He is always there to pick up the pieces and to pour the champagne.

How do you feel about our environmental future?

We face a climate emergency and unless governments act quickly, they will lose the support of the majority of the population. Our oceans are also in major trouble but I see positive signs – I just hope we don’t act too late.

A Crude Injustice is showing as part of the Sydney Indie Film Festival on Saturday October 27 at the Festival Space, Events Cinemas, George St, Sydney at 4pm.

The Festival runs from 22 October to 1 November. For details and program, click here.

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