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  • Two boys come of age in the middle of one of the world’s worst toxic disasters in Ecuador.

    Two boys come of age in the middle of one of the world’s worst toxic disasters in Ecuador.

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  • Animated short in which a member of an Ecuadorian Amazon tribe recalls his journey to USA as a boy.

    Animated short in which a member of an Ecuadorian Amazon tribe recalls his journey to USA as a boy.

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  • Hugo and David see signs of oil development as they travel down the Aguarico river in Ecuador.

    Hugo and David see signs of oil development as they travel down the Aguarico river in Ecuador.

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  • David Poritz (left) and Hugo Lucitante visit a Petroamanas oil field in Ecuador.

    David Poritz (left) and Hugo Lucitante visit a Petroamanas oil field in Ecuador.

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  • Sadie Lucitante washes laundry in the Aguarico River.

    Sadie Lucitante washes laundry in the Aguarico River.

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  • David Poritz with a shaman of the Secoya tribe of Ecuador.

    David Poritz with a shaman of the Secoya tribe of Ecuador.

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The Film

Shot over six years, Oil & Water is the true story of two boys coming of age in the middle of one of the world’s worst toxic disasters. Hugo fights for the survival of his Amazonian tribe, while David attempts to revolutionize the oil industry.

When Hugo Lucitante was 10 years old, the Cofan tribe of Ecuador made a desperate decision. Fearing extinction, they sent Hugo to be educated in the U.S., in hopes that he would return to lead them into a better future. A decade later, Hugo 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 aid 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 to tour Hugo’s ancestral lands where 18 billion gallons of oil waste was dumped, leading to unexplainable rashes, childhood deformities, and ballooning cancer rates.

While still a college student, David launches the world’s first international company to certify oil as “fair-trade,” meaning that it is drilled in a safer way. David's approach could be a game changer for the oil industry. Meanwhile, Hugo struggles with culture shock, the demands of learning to be a Cofan tribal leader, and also becoming a husband. Financial pressures cause him to shoulder two minimum wage jobs, even as oil prospectors push deeper into the rainforest.

Will Hugo become the leader his tribe so desperately needs? Will David clean up one of the world’s dirtiest industries? Oil & Water follows the twists and turning points in their lives to bring a powerful conclusion to the story.

The Filmmakers

  1. Laurel Spellman SmithProducer/Director
  2. Francine StrickwerdaProducer/Director