Documentary Review: “Poison Fire” (2008)

Thursday 24th, November 2011 / 20:46 Written by

"Poison Fire" logo, Source:

Poison Fire is a documentary filmed by Lars Johansson. In the course of the film he is following local Nigerian environmental activists during their filming work in endangered areas. The movie visits the scenes of the event of gas flaring. It concentrates on the oil drilling activity of one of the world’s biggest oil drilling companies: Shell.

In the course of the oil drilling, a huge amount of gas is drilled as well. Because the transport over the Atlantic Ocean is basically too dangerous and too expensive, the company rather burns the surplus gas. That process of gas flaring affects local communities in the Niger Delta enormously. In many communities damage to the villagers’ health is ascertainable. The burning gas is affecting eyes, the lungs and the skin.
In Poison Fire Lars Johansson illustrates impressively what impact the gas flaring has on the daily life of Nigerian communities in the Niger Delta. It is presented in a shocking way how the responsible company, namely Shell, seems to ignore the problems and how it always puts the blame on the federal Nigerian government. At the same time it ignores juridical decisions made by judges in Benin City for instance and with doing so states itself above Nigerian law.
Albeit the documentary was published three years ago it still has a certain topicality. Shell is still operating in the Niger delta as one of the biggest oil drilling companies. Moreover the United Nations recently called for a $1bn fund to clean up oil pollution in the Delta region of Nigeria.
Lars Johansson and his crew give the persons affected a voice and show the world how irresponsible oil drilling companies act in the Niger Delta. The documentary is achieving two major things: First it gives the audience an idea of the ongoing environmental disaster and secondly it supports local film and documentary makers with their important work.
Read some striking quotes from local villagers and one of the judges in Benin City:

The oil companies don’t come to the Niger Delta to develop the Niger Delta, they are businessmen, they come to make profit and go away. (villager in Poison Fire, min 11:01)
Oil should be a blessing and not a curse to our land, but it is a curse now. (villager in Poison Fire, min 13:56)
The duty of ending gas flaring is squarely on the company flaring the gas! (Poison Fire, min 23:22)
It’s constitutional, a violation of right to life and dignity of human person. (one of the judges in Benin City referring to the gas flaring, Poison Fire, min 24:30)
Enough is enough! (Peter Roderick, Climate Justice Programme, in Poison Fire, min 25:51)

Watch the full documentary:

Read more about the current developments concerning Shell’s activity in the Niger Delta and the production of the documentary Poison Fire:
Homepage of Poison Fire (lastly updated 24 Nov 2011)
Nigeria’s gas profits ‘up in smoke’ (bbc, 13 January 2009)
Nigeria Ogoniland oil clean-up ‘could take 30 years’ (bbc Africa, 4 August 2011)

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About the author

Fields of work: Environment, Fisheries, History, Countries: Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Zimbabwe Part of since: January 2011

View all articles by David Drengk

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