Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Update on the BP Gulf Oil Spill in Margaret Brown's new doc, THE GREAT INVISIBLE

The publicity material for the new documentary, THE GREAT INVISIBLE, directed by Margaret Brown and detailing the results of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, tells us that this is "the first film that goes beyond the media coverage to examine the crisis in depth through the eyes of those who experienced it first-hand and were left to pick up the pieces while the world moved on." Sorry, but this is definitely not the first film to do this. It is simply the most recent to cover people who live & work in the gulf.
Back in 2012 Bryan D. Hopkins' Dirty Energy did exactly this and managed the job in even better fashion. The lesser but still worthwhile doc, The Bix Fix from Joshua and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, alerted us to what BP was not doing to clean up its mess, and what our own government was doing to camouflage what was going on. And Jennifer Baichwal and Margaret Atwood explored the post-BP mess as part of their interesting but not entirely successful doc, Payback, based on Atwood's book. So this subject has indeed been covered by intelligent and passionate movie-makers, of which Ms Brown, shown at right, is certainly another. Each filmmaker seems to have found his or her own special charac-ters to highlight. Here, they are Doug Brown (shown below, and no relation to the filmmaker, so far as I know) and Stephen Stone, two men who actually worked aboard the Deep Horizon oil rig and managed to survive the explosion and fire, along with some entitled, self-satisfied oil executives, whose conversation Brown (and we) sit in on and grow angrier by the word and minute.

Ms Brown also pays attention, as have the other filmmakers, to the kind of compensation BP has promised local residents and that does not in many cases appear to be forthcoming. We bounce back and forth from compensation meetings to interviews with Brown, Stone (shown below) and a few others, and listen in on those oil execs (shown at bottom).

Overall, there is enough information, obfuscation, and sadness here to rile us up and even occasionally empty our tear ducts. Brown does not go into much about how BP pretended to "clean up" its mess, nor about government intrusions on the media's ability to report what was happening, nor give us much info about what is happening to local sea life. The other documentaries do a much more thorough job of all this. What Brown does do -- and this is a first -- is to talk to some of the men who worked on the rig itself (including the family of one of the men who died) to get their stories -- which lay the guilt directly on BP, the rig operator TransOcean and the contractor Halliburton (yes, that last name does sound familiar...)..

What Brown has accomplished is certainly worth hearing and seeing. The gulf remains a disaster area for those unfortunate enough to work and live there; compensation is barely evident; nothing has been done by our government to insure stricter safety regulations; and many more oil rigs and drilling are now in evidence throughout the gulf. The movie will anger you all over again, as have the earlier documentaries. Oil still rules (just listen to those executives!) and its money buys all our politicians lucky enough to live in the states where oil is found. It's disgusting. But that's America -- and Capitalism -- today.

The Great Invisible, from Radius-TWC and running 92 minutes, opens this Wednesday, October 29, in New York City at the Village East Cinema and in the Los Angeles area at the Sundance Sunset Cinemas

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