The Big Fix: A Film that Exposes the Biggest Environmental Coverup Ever


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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