Deepwater Horizon means many things, one of them being the title of a Peter Berg film. I liked that film at the time because I didn’t know any better. But its original namesake is an oil rig hundreds of miles off the Gulf Coast. And that oil spill in that rig caused unforeseen environmental consequences. Margaret Brown’s The Great Invisible is less about the action and more about those consequences. The first of these causes are environmental. It destroyed crab fisheries and other industries that many citizens of the coast depended on. The film takes its audiences to town halls. There, people talked about, among many things food they can no longer eat.
The film also contextualizes the culture behind Deepwater Horizon. It shows interviews of the former rig workers there as well as decades worth of archive footage of those workers. One of those workers is Stephen Stone, who explains the rig’s working conditions and unsaid rules. No one ever told him that he couldn’t drink a glass of water during work. But he learned that any way to stop working has its consequences. These interviews make these worker’s struggles relate-able. But there’s something specific here about how exploitation and corporate greed invalidated workers’ rights in the oil industry.
The film goes back and forth from the oil rigs. A man delivers groceries to former fishermen. Someone calling in to a radio station calls for seceding from the Union. Because somehow the Union shut down the oil industry. A bi-partisan committee asks oil industry CEOs. And activists educate a multicultural group of elementary students about both Exxon Valdez and Deepwater. I don’t mind that the film covers these topics instead of the actual spill. But these are still a lot of topics to cover. And it needed a stronger voice to make these topics part of a more cohesive whole.
I wouldn’t mind a whole documentary just on oil rig workers like Stone. There’s something inherently interesting in the emotional states of people as they go up against big corporations in court. But there’s enough of their presence to unite the many stories here. There are many who still feel the effects of the spill decades after it happened. This took place ten years ago. It was during the middle years of Twitter when everyone watched the disaster unfolding. The film came out four years later and viewers can still watch it now. We forget these disasters but we shouldn’t.
Participant Media is re-releasing The Great Invisible as part of The Impact Series. An original film and speaker series that focuses on global social and environmental issues. Once a month, the series re-releases an award winning film from Participant Media’s catalogue. The series also asks the filmmakers questions about the topics that their documentaries cover. Check these films out on https://theimpactseries.net/. After this re-release, The Great Invisible will be available on selected rental sites. Lastly, go to https://www.takepart.com/great-invisible/index.html to find out how much the oil has encroached on other industries.