Synopsis by Mark Deming
"Sweet Crude" is petroleum industry slang for oil that has low levels of sulfur and hydrogen when it's pumped from the ground. Firms who use oil for gasoline refining favor sweet crude, and one of the world's largest supplies can be found in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. However, though billions of dollars worth of high-quality crude oil has been harvested in the Niger Delta, nearly all the money has gone into the pockets of a few large petroleum companies, while the people who make their homes near the oil fields live in desperate poverty. Angry over shortages of food and drinking water and the lack of medical care, schools and proper sanitation in the area, a number of Nigerians have begun demanding economic justice, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (or MEND) is an activist group who believe the Nigerian people deserve their fair share of the profits the nation's oil has produced. But some activists affiliated with MEND are not above using kidnapping as a tool of political change, which has led to them being branded as terrorists in the international media. Filmmaker Sandy Cioffi traveled to the Niger Delta to make a film about efforts to build a library there, and as she became aware of the area's economic divide and the efforts of MEND to bring the world's attention to their plight, Cioffi was convinced there was a bigger story waiting to be told. Sweet Crude is a documentary about the struggle of the Nigerian people to improve their lot in life, and their ongoing battle against their government and a handful of powerful multinational corporations. Sweet Crude was an official selection at the 2009 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.