With echoes of the lawsuits against Big Tobacco, Duty of Care: The Climate Trials gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Roger Cox's David v Goliath battles. In the courtroom drama of our lifetimes, a Dutch property lawyer turned litigation maverick takes on powerful states and one of the world's largest oil companies.
Duty of Care tells the inside story of Roger Cox, the first and only lawyer to have successfully sued both a government and an oil giant in landmark court cases that established climate inaction can be made illegal. His ground-breaking case against the Dutch government and oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has been foundational in determining that even private entities owe a duty of care to citizens to avoid catastrophic climate change, which stunned legal experts and sent shockwaves through parliaments and corporate boardrooms around the world.
The documentary is a character-driven journey through the highs and lows of his trials, featuring a cast of creative lawyers, activists, and ordinary citizens who are pursuing what they see as the legal showdown of the century. Against a backdrop of settled science and persistent inaction, and initially motivated by climate change documentaries, Cox leads a robust legal challenge against one of the worlds largest emitters of greenhouse gases. His surprise success against nearly unlimited resources leads him to being named one of the 100 most influential people of the year by Time magazine, as his cases have now set legal precedent as climate litigation continues to grow at an increasing rate.
With interviews from experts and activists leading the wave of international climate litigation triggered by Cox's successes, the film presents a fresh, inspiring story about — and for — future generations of climate leaders as justice takes over where politicians and profit makers have for so long obstructed and delayed. Unique among films addressing climate change, Duty of Care stands apart as one that offers hope for a sustainable planet, achieved through the courts.
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "As a climate activist, I was running out of ideas on how to make a profound change fast enough. As a filmmaker, I was desperately looking for the right story to make film on this our greatest challenge ever. But how and where to start?
Then I met Roger Cox, a man with a mission that might just make the difference before all was lost. The filmmaker in me realized that capturing this could well be recording (and why not indeed helping to make) history. This was a story that needed to be told.
The imminent danger of making a documentary out of conviction is that it can prove to be ideologically one-sided, intellectually pushy, and artistically uninspired, three dangers we most plan to avoid. The number of well-meaning climate films that either crush or fatally depress their audience are, alas, numerous. In grounding our narrative in the real-life/real-time narrative of groundbreaking court cases, we are setting the film in the arena of so many successful legal thrillers. The fact that we have unique access to our protagonist's private life allows us to, quite literally, tell the inside story, the emotional highs and lows, of a story that has never been told before. Finding out who's killing the planet, and more importantly what might be done about it might prove to be the ultimate David versus Goliath courtroom drama."
— Nic Balthazar