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Review: The Big Fix

Alex Woodward on the documentary about the aftermath of the BP oil disaster

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Though The Big Fix targets BP and the Gulf oil disaster's handlers, its cold intro goes back to the then-named British Petroleum's beginnings. Archival footage details how the company, aided by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrangled control of Iran and retained rights to its oil fields. After the Islamic revolution effectively ended BP's occupation, BP turned its attention elsewhere, focusing on the Gulf of Mexico.

  What follows is nothing new, synthesizing the last year and a half of oil disaster coverage — including impacts to the environment, the health and well-being of Gulf residents and distorted media access — and showing a dizzying collection of corporate defiance, government ineptitude and flat-out lies and deceptions, all packed into two hours.

  Directed by Louisiana native Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca, The Big Fix debuted at this year's New Orleans Film Festival. It's a follow-up to their 2008 doc Fuel, which had its New Orleans release in June 2010. In The Big Fix, Tickell takes Fuel's same celebrity players along for the ride to south Louisiana: Peter Fonda and Amy Smart visit shrimpers, residents, captains and beaches. Tickell narrates, and cameras capture clueless BP crews, closed beaches and Rebecca's trips to the doctor for chemical exposure following several boat trips in dispersant-sprayed waterways. The film takes a step back to evaluate just how much influence oil and gas companies have on national politics, from post-Kingfish Louisiana to more current campaign contributions — outlining a network of clear-cut influence from Big Oil in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.

  Its final moments offer some messy imagery and oftentimes ham-fisted civil rights rallying cries, but, as Rolling Stone contributor Jeff Goddell calls the disaster, it's a wake-up call. — Alex Woodward


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