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Oil Documentary Tries to Galvanize Revolt

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A documentary that premiered this week at the Cannes Film Festival argues that ramifications of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history, are still ongoing.

"The Big Fix," an American film by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, tells a story of Big Oil, Big Government, corruption, greed, environmental contamination and economic ruin following the April 20, 2010, explosion of the BP drill rig, which killed 11 and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days.

The film begins with interviews of Louisiana fishermen and other Gulf Coast locals who have suffered greatly and have yet to be fairly compensated for their losses. Though relief remains at arm's length, a toxic environment and economic ruin lie at their fingertips.

Premised on the idea that the world is suffering an environmental and economic crisis because corporations have become so big they are beyond the control of government, the movie soon evolves from footage of oily water and dead dolphins to speak of the global financial crisis, the near meltdown at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant and uprisings in the Middle East.

Though BP and mainstream media have reported otherwise, "The Big Fix" argues that the millions of barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico following last year's catastrophe are far from gone. They have merely been forced to the bottom of the Gulf through heavy use of highly toxic dispersants, the filmmakers show.

Because businesses and the government are focused on short-term profits, the widespread health and environmental effects of the spill have been intentionally hidden.

The film has celebrity endorsement from the likes of Peter Fonda and Tim Robbins, both executive producers of the film. Fonda also appears in the film. And for the film's soundtrack, Jason Mraz composed the song, "Collapsible Plans."

Critics say the documentary feels one-sided, especially because BP declined involvement with it in any way.

With a spirit of revolution that is a throwback to the days of "Easy Rider," the end of the documentary is a monologue in which Josh Tickell, the co-director, urges the public into revolution against an age of capitalism that the film suggests has become fascism.

"We are taking on the oil companies, the U.S. government, the military and the banks," Josh Tickell told the The Hollywood Reporter on Monday, the eve of the film's premiere at Cannes.

The film criticizes the Obama administration, alleging it is as influenced by oil money as the presidency of George W. Bush.

During a press conference at Cannes, Fonda told the crowd: "I sent an email to President Obama saying, 'You are a fucking traitor' by those words. 'You're a traitor. You allowed foreign boots, i.e. BP, on our shore, telling our military, in the case of the Coast Guard, what they could and could not do."

The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a gloomy but perhaps realistic depiction of the forces of corruption and deceit that produce environmental catastrophes."

Though the same review goes on to say the revolutionary spirit at the end of the movie is over the top, it also celebrates some of the film's compelling subtleties, such as Rebecca Tickell's real-life illness after being exposed to toxicity from the spill.

"Interestingly, all the talking heads, on-screen charts and flow of information aren't as poignant or damning as the serious health issues Rebecca Tickell now suffers as a result of her exposure to Gulf air and water for only a limited time," Kirk Honeycutt wrote for the Reporter. "This brings home the real consequences of BP's inadequate, tardy and wrong-headed response to the tragedy."

Rebecca Tickell developed a severe case of photosensitivity after exposure to oil and chemical dispersants during a shoot. She is unable to go out into the sun now without breaking out in a severe rash.

The film estimates four to five million people have been negatively impacted by the spill.

Tickell's last film, "Fuel," which premiered at Sundance in 2008, was also an oil-related documentary.

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