Government’s Role in the Worst Oil Spill in U.S. History: “The Big Fix” Premieres Oct. 14 at New Orleans Film Festival


Faith in the federal government has died on the Gulf Coast – or more accurately, it was killed. The trust between Gulf citizen and government was battered by the disastrously slow and inept federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a stake was driven through its heart by the Obama Administration’s incessant coddling of BP during last year’s massive oil spill.

By all accounts, those two critically important federal responses were blunders of epic proportions, leaving the people of the Gulf Coast to fend for themselves in the most dire of situations. Though we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and forged on, we will never forget that Washington turned its back on us when we needed it most.

The Gulf Coast will get a chance this week to air its anger, distrust and disappointment alongside hometown heroes Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca as their film, The Big Fix, makes its much-anticipated North American premiere on Oct. 14 at the New Orleans Film Festival. We will also get a chance to celebrate our resilience and to rally around our dedication to making a difference in the way our government and industry operate.

This brilliant film – I believe the most important of the year – takes a behind-the-scenes look at the intimate relationship between our federal government and Big Oil. It’s an unholy alliance that seeks to preserve the oil-producing machine that fuels America regardless of the damage it inflicts on people, the environment, or frankly, anything else that matters.

Here’s how the Times-Picayune describes it:

The Tickells’ central contention: that the millions of gallons of oil spilled after the April 22, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico have yet to be cleaned up – and that the impact, both human and environmental, have been covered up by business and government officials eager to resume drilling.

And from Kirk Honeycutt at the Hollywood Reporter:

Anyone with an open mind and some attention paid to events of the past few years will have little trouble seeing that the fix was in when the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico last year – and this fix will still be in when the next catastrophe happens.

Mr. Honeycutt points out the ongoing inevitability of the fix. But the Tickells offer a hopeful rallying cry of unity and activism as the one way to undo the fix – and the mess we’re all in.

This film is not just a must-see for anybody impacted by the BP spill but also for anybody who cares about the future of our great nation, its people and our beleaguered environment. So please get out to the premiere on Friday. Tell your family, tell your friends. The Big Fix is a truly important film that documents this devastating chapter in our nation’s history in the most accurate and honest light I’ve seen to date.

The film delivers a cathartic experience that both repulses and inspires. I promise that you will leave the theater with eyes wide open like never before.

For more information and tickets:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

Here’s my previous post on the film posted after my return from the Cannes Film Festival where The Big Fix made its world premiere.


I traveled to France last weekend to see the much-ballyhooed world premiere of the BP oil spill documentary The Big Fix at the Cannes Film Festival. I can’t offer enough praise. It’s a brilliant piece of work, exceeding all hype and expectation. The audience at the screening I attended was completely blown away by both the stunning cinematography and the jaw-dropping evidence that the BP spill involved a coverup at the highest levels of the industry, the military and the Obama Administration.

It is this cabal – best described as the “petroleum-military-industrial complex” – that wreaks havoc around the world poisoning people and the environment, as it did with the BP oil spill.

The film, directed by Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca, reveals our worst fears and greatest suspicions: That Big Oil, from the dark days surrounding Huey Long’s assassination, has perpetrated a massive coverup of its power, influence and the enormous damage it causes around the world.

The Big Fix exposes some of BP’s best-kept secrets about the Deepwater Horizon, including the continued use of Corexit “carpet bombing” a year after the disaster began; the sham behind the government’s sniff testing of Gulf seafood; the fact that BP is one of the biggest suppliers of fuel to the U.S. military; and that oil is still leaking from the Macondo Well.

To make the film’s allegations stick, Mr. Tickell and his team assemble and document the work of many of the environmental heroes and activists we’ve covered here on this blog since the early days of the spill, including marine biologist Riki Ott, EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman, local hell-raiser Kindra Arnesen and marine toxicologist Susan Shaw. I also got some play in the film for my criticism of the government’s farcical seafood “sniff testing” program. And I still firmly believe that some of the seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico today is unfit for human consumption.

The film’s biggest bombshell centers on the suspicious death of petroleum expert and founder of the Ocean Energy Institute Matt Simmons, who drowned in his hot tub at his vacation home in North Haven, Maine, on Aug. 8, 2010 less than a month after publicly stating that the death toll from the BP spill would be stunningly high. Mr. Simmons warned that tens of millions of Gulf residents should be evacuated to avoid widespread death and illness. He characterized the Gulf spill as “the biggest environmental coverup ever,” and said repeatedly during the height of the disaster that “we have now killed the Gulf of Mexico.”

The “call to action” of the film is both powerful and lofty: Only through unprecedented unity and activism can we end the devastating impact that Big Oil has on the planet and on its people.

As somebody who’s been on the front lines of the spill since the very beginning and as an attorney who has litigated against Big Oil for more than two decades, I believe The Big Fix is the most important film of the year, and I urge all of you to go see it. I would be shocked if it’s not nominated for an Academy Award.

I respect and admire the Tickells, who took a big risk in producing the film. For those of us who have made our life’s work exposing the ills of Big Oil, we understand the dangers inherent in our career choice. The discomfort Mr. Tickell and his team are bringing upon the industry is the kind you can’t easily dismiss, and the oil industry knows it. And this is not the first time Tickell has poked Big Oil in the eye. He also directed the film Fuel, which probes the influence and impact Big Oil has on people’s lives and offers solutions to our addiction to oil. It won Best Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Mr. and Ms. Tickell, keep up the good work. We applaud you.

In closing, I wish Ms. Tickell the very best as she deals with her own spill-related illness – poisoning from the oil-Corexit mixture and permanent and severe photosensitivity to the skin on her upper chest.

See The Big Fix trailer here:

See the AP’s take on the film here:

See the Fuel trailer here:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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