Thursday, 19 May 2011

Cannes Day 7: The Big Fix

It seems there's been a recent spurt in eco-focused documentaries. That's probably because the ecological crisis is getting harder and harder to ignore.

Readers may remember the acclaimed 2010 documentary GasLand, which was Josh Fox's amazing piece of detective work into the frac'ing process, an extremely harmful method of extracting sub-terranean gas.

Unfortunately, what The Big Fix uncovers is just as bad, and as such, should be declared as mandatory viewing.

Married couple (and co-directors of The Big Fix) Josh and Rebecca Tickle are attempting to continue the campaign surrounding Josh's last feature documentary, Fuel, which had the Tickles drive across the United States in a bio-diesel powered van, spreading the word about reducing fossil fuel dependencies (I never saw it, but it might be worth it to do so - if only to see them drive in a car filled with deep-fry grease).

Unfortunately, on April 20th, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded, leaking 4.9 million barrels of crude oil before the spill was "contained" months later in July. Distracted from their spreading their earlier message, the Tickles hit the Gulf, bringing their cameras and some eco-friendly celebrities (Jason Mraz, Peter Fonda, Amy Smart) along to back them up.

But it doesn't just stay in Louisiana, the worst-affected area of the oil spill. The Big Fix reveals an excellent (and yet, disgusting) portrayal of how the Gulf of Mexico is still not at all clean, despite official statements and Presidential proclamations. It also provides a brief history of the assassination conspiracies surrounding Huey Long, famous for standing up to Big Oil. Was he taken out to prevent obstacles for further oil expansions?

More questions begin to roll in: Why aren't the oil companies being held responsible for incidents like the Deepwater Horizon when they violate their safety procedures to increase their profits? Why is it acceptable for lobbyists to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns for pro-oil politicians? And why does Obama's ecological track record look as bad (or worse) than Dubya's, when he was voted in on a green wave of hope? Why is there so much corruption?

It's here that The Big Fix riskily condemns Obama (which could raise a few eyebrows, but fill even more seats) for his negligence regarding the energy crisis and peak oil. Fortunately, the Tickles provide some hard-hitting data, illustrated seamlessly and clearly with evocative, eye-catching infographics. There are a few talking heads, but the filmmakers don't linger for too long. They also manage to succesfully capture some shocking hidden camera footage, which I won't spoil. Needless to say, there's a lot to discuss here.

The film is so fresh from the editing room that it also includes coverage of the 2011 Japanese earthquake disaster, raising some issues regarding nuclear energy, its overall stability, and the stubbornness about giving it up. What, if anything, have we learned from these awful environmental disasters?

The Big Fix ends with the conclusion that events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are nowhere close to being catastrophic enough for the world to get the message about changing fuel habits. As a film, The Big Fix probably a little long, but as an argument it's incredibly strong, scary, and crucially important. The Big Fix is like GasLand mixed with Inside Job, and there's also elements of The Cove. But these are very powerful documentaries - any film that draws comparisons should treat them as a compliment. They should consider banding together, because these films are so connected with their ability to uncover corruption. And sadly, it seems to be everywhere.

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