The Big Fix has its U.S. premiere tonight at the Prytania Theater, but filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell were joined by the film's subjects at the Contemporary Arts Center this afternoon to introduce the film. It's a necessary intro, as the film drops a bomb on BP and authorities, dropped by a seemingly quiet couple who previously worked on a documentary about clean energy solutions. "We didn't make the movie to pass judgement on an industry, we didn't make the movie to say 'Oil industry should get out of Louisiana' or people shouldn't keep their jobs. We made the movie because what had been done had been covered up and continues to be covered up," said Josh Tickell, a Louisiana native. "Now it's up to you to take this story and tell it in a courageous way that doesn't step over the evidence that shows this man-made disaster isn't over. In may ways it's just begun."
Tickell was joined by attorney Stuart Smith, as well as Hugh Kaufman, an EPA policy analyst who blew the whistle on the effects of Corexit as an oil dispersant in the Gulf as well as 9/11 cleanup workers being exposed to toxins. Dean Blanchard, owner of Blanchard Seafood and is profiled in the film, lamented the past worst shrimp season ever. "Our beach on Grand Isle was one of the most fertile fishing grounds," he said. "Now it's producing less than 1 percent of the shrimp it produced before BP." Blanchard also is concerned about the health of the shrimp and fish in his catch — they got the government's OK, but Blanchard lost his liability insurance, "so every night, when I ship out a load of seafood ... I got a big fear I might harm somebody."
"This is about connecting the dots for me, and it should be for all of you as well," said marine toxicologist Riki Ott, who has worked along the Gulf Coast since the disaster began and has frequently compared the oil and dispersant impact to the environment and peoples' health to the Exxon Valdez disaster, among others. Plaquemines Parish resident Kindra Arnesen broke into tears describing her and her family's deteriorating health from chemical exposure. "What is going on?" she asked. "I look at my children and I don't know what their future will be."
Blanchard said he has experienced bloody noses and needs two packs of cough drops to sleep at night.
Margaret Curole, a Louisiana native and executive board member of Commercial Fishers of America, said her 31-year-old son, who worked in cleanup operations, lost 30 pounds and tests high for benzene and xylene poisoning.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and had a small screening in Los Angeles — Tickell said both audiences were shocked at its content. "We'll have to wait and see what the response is here in Louisiana," he said. "If it is going to take a bigger crisis than this to wake America up, God help us all."
The Big Fix also screens at Chalmette Movies at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. Tickets available here.