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Indybay Feature

Documentary Screening: "The Great Invisible"

Saturday, September 14, 2019
1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Event Type:
Niles Discovery Church
Location Details:
Niles Discovery Church
36600 Niles Blvd
Fremont, CA 94536

The Great Invisible: A Documentary About the Real People Behind a Disaster

The explosion and sinking of the “super” drilling rig, the Deep Water Horizon, caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Huge amounts of raw petroleum were released continuously into the Gulf of Mexico for eighty-seven days before it was finally capped. The Great Invisible, a documentary by filmmaker Margaret Bowen, is the first full-length attempt to examine the disaster in its social, business, political, and personal contexts.

The presentation of the first three such contexts is competent and thorough, if not surprising. There are no surprises offered here. People whose memories of the incident have faded in the nine years since it occurred will quickly remember the “macro” aspects of the event: the suspense and danger of the explosion itself, the anxious wait for news of the crew. Later, the self-serving testimony of the British Petroleum executives hauled before Congress, and the stories of ignored safety warnings, foolish corner cutting, and almost universal minimizing and outright lying by industry representatives. Bowen provides many new details that flesh out the above, reinforcing what we already know rather than leading us anywhere unexpected.

It is the fourth context, the personal dimension, where the tale becomes fascinating. Bowen has lots of interviews with people who have not previously talked publicly about what the spill meant to them, and in many cases, appear to never have been asked about it before. There are parents grieving the loss of sons (11 people were killed), the walking wounded struggling with physical injuries that haven't gone away and PTSD they have no idea how to heal. There are countless workers from the tourist and (especially) fishing industries whose livelihoods died in the oil spill along with the fish and seagulls. There are the long-time residents of the many coastal towns who, despite the promises of visiting politicians, seem to know that things will never “get back to normal.” These are real people struggling to give adequate expression to huge pain and loss that never made it into the media accounts of this unnatural disaster.
Bowen is to be congratulated on seeking out these people and letting them give voice to truths deeper than the “public facts.”
The Great Invisible will be screened at Niles Discovery Church (36600 Niles Blvd. in Fremont) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, and will be followed by a facilitated audience discussion.

The Second Saturday Documentary Series is co-sponsored by Niles Discovery Church and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Learn more about the series at
Added to the calendar on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 3:09PM
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