I wish I could say that I’m surprised when I see evidence of widespread corruption and injustice, but nowadays it seems like situations that aren’t corrupt are the rare ones. The Big Fix starts with the mistakes and oversights that occurred when British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and the oil vein it had pierced deep under the water began to leak into the Gulf. From there we get to see just how horrible the situation is, and how the mandate from above, whether it be the government or BP itself, becomes one not of correction but of cover-up. As long as things look okay, people will assume they are. Unfortunately, it appears that they’re nowhere near okay.
As the film goes on, we see oil dispersant Corexit being sprayed into the Gulf to make it look like the oil has gone, at least from the surface, and a sort of unintended biological warfare on the residents of Louisiana begins as people have dangerous physical reactions to the chemicals. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’ll stop, especially when those who can make the most convincing case for the problem also tend to be getting big corporate grants from the ones they’d be speaking out against. Same too goes for the government, as anyone who could make a difference one way or another is so laden with lobbyist gains that they’ve overcomplicated, or bought out, their own ability and willingness to act.
Meanwhile, the oil might still be leaking into the Gulf, the marine life is still dying and there may even be a lake of oil floating about midway between the bottom of the Gulf and the surface; dangerous, but low enough to not be seen on the surface. The media long moved on from the story when the dispersant sunk the oil out of view and the oil well was capped, and, again, the government is getting information and facts from the very people they’re supposed to be investigating with the most scrutiny, and then allowing BP more contracts to drill in the Gulf.
This is one of those documentaries that just pisses you off, and unfortunately, as I said before, these are not the minority anymore. Filmmakers Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell do what they can to deliver not just talking head facts and theories but first-hand accounts from the Gulf, and it’s in that first-person perspective that they wind up proving their concerns the best, unfortunately due to Rebecca’s own physical reaction to the chemical dispersants being utilized in the area. When just a trip in a boat requires a gas mask, and should’ve included a hazmat suit, you know something truly awful is going on. Couple that with the fact that the filmmakers have to go covert with surveillance equipment to get real answers about the current state of affairs and you have one big mess. And we still get 30% of our seafood from the Gulf!?!
My main criticism of The Big Fix is one that I often have with other documentaries that point out a great injustice, one that is still going on, and then… what do I do, exactly? Is this about writing letters to Congress (does that even work… ever)? What do I do? I’m not saying a documentary film needs to solve the problem it is presenting for me, or even can, but a little help or practical idea of something I could do on a personal level would be greatly appreciated.
Other documentaries have done it; they’ve had website links prior to the credits of places to go for more information or even just simple call to action suggestions to help make a difference. I just needed something. Otherwise this documentary, while solid in its reporting, just manages to piss me off. And while there is value in that, and maybe the idea is just to spread the information first and the action will come later, it feels like a loop where we all just spread the word that things are screwed-up in the Gulf and it becomes knowledge that everyone knows but does nothing about, unfortunately like so many other issues out there today.
All that said, The Big Fix does a great job of pointing out just how big a problem we’ve got going on in the Gulf ever since the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred. Unfortunately, it’s not just about one solitary corporation taking advantage of the ignorance of the public (and the complacency of the mainstream media). The web is even more tangled than that, and the same problems we’ve been seeing with the financial crisis and other political issues of late come to the fore as the unfortunate case is made, once again, that our democracy is nothing more than a not-so-well-hidden oligarchy.
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