Francine Strickwerda is an award-winning director, writer and producer of documentary films and Web sites. She co-directed the feature film Oil & Water for PBS and the acclaimed documentary Busting Out, about American attitudes toward the female breast, which aired on Showtime. In addition to working on local and national shows at Seattle’s KCTS Public Television, she produced and executive edited national PBS Web sites including Don’t Buy It, Videogame Revolution, Exploring Space, and was a senior producer at HealthTalk.com. She currently runs Hullabaloo, a Seattle video production company with her husband, and she has created videos for clients including the United Nations, Fortune 500 companies and the Seattle Fire Department. Francine began her career as a reporter for newspapers in Washington and Idaho. She studied journalism at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.
Laurel Spellman Smith is a two-time regional Emmy Award-winning producer of national and local programs for PBS including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and the documentary, Faith & Fear: The Children of Krishna. She became an independent producer in 2001 and in addition to Oil & Water she co-directed and produced the women’s health documentary Busting Out which aired on Showtime and the Iraq War documentary The Corporal’s Diary, seen on PBS stations, Al Jazeera English and Link TV. She is also a fan of other people’s films and a juror for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Laurel grew up in Los Angeles and Kauai before making a home in Seattle with her husband and cat. She graduated from The Evergreen State College, where she studied film and cultural anthropology, pursuing her interest in the latter by traveling to over 100 countries. When not on the road or in the edit room, she manages a vacation rental house on a remote island in The Bahamas and is a personal dresser at Dress for Success and for her fashion-challenged filmmaker friends.
Oil & Water is the true story of two boys coming of age as they each confront one of the world’s worst toxic disasters. Hugo and David were born on opposite ends of the oil pipeline. Hugo comes to America to fight for the survival of his Cofan tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon, while David goes to Ecuador to launch the world’s first company to certify oil as “fair trade.” Their journeys lead them to explore what could be a more just future, not just for the Cofan, but for all people around the world who are born with oil beneath their feet. When Hugo Lucitante was 10 years old, his tribe made a desperate decision. Fearing extinction, they sent Hugo to be educated in the US, in hopes that he would return to lead them into a better future. A decade later, we follow Hugo as he returns to the Ecuadorian Amazon to meet his destiny, armed only with a high school diploma. David Poritz was just a sixth-grader when he learned of the oil disaster in Hugo’s homeland. With the blessing of his mother, David started a humanitarian project that led him away from his home in Amherst, Massachusetts to spend much of his youth in the Amazon. The two teenagers meet by chance during a shared canoe ride, and then again, when David offers to travel with Hugo to tour the damage cause by the 18 billion gallons of oil waste that was dumped on Hugo’s ancestral lands. The area’s people experience unexplainable rashes, childhood deformities and ballooning cancer rates. The film follows the boys back to the U.S. as their lives and the situation in Ecuador get more complicated. Can Hugo become the leader his tribe so desperately wants him to be? Will David clean up one of the world’s dirtiest industries? Oil & Water is an intimate portrait of two young people finding their voices and trying to beat incredible odds. Eight years in the making, the film is an independent documentary funded by ITVS and MacArthur Foundation and made for broadcast on PBS.
September 11, 2014: Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, Madison, GA
September 12, 2014: City of Hapeville, Hapeville, GA
September 13, 2014: The Tennessee Valley Art Association/Ritz Theatre, Sheffield, AL
September 16, 2014: Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC
September 18, 2014: Robinson Film Center, Shreveport, LA
September 19, 2014: Union College, Barbourville, KY