Main content

Black Tide: Voices from the Gulf

View on The Global Environmental Justice site


This film was selected by Amity Doolittle, Senior Lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Why I selected this film

Even though coverage on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill eventually faded from national news media, local residents continue to feel the impact individually, economically, and environmentally one year later. The film highlights the need for local communities to continue fighting for justice through political action to continue the cleanup, revive the economy, mitigate damage to flora and fauna, and gather scientific information to better quantify the impact of future similar disasters. The film reminds viewers that disasters of this size and scale harm local communities in a multitude of ways that may not be visible, and that without sustained action to hold oil companies accountable, environmental justice is hard to achieve.

Teacher's guide
Please see the teacher's guide for maps, background information, suggested subjects, questions and activities.


One year after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, the coastal communities of Grand Isle, Louisiana had still not recovered from the devastating effects wrought by the 200 million gallons of oil spilled following the explosion. Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger traveled across the Louisiana coast interviewing local fishers, restaurant owners, marine scientists, and British Petroleum (BP) representatives to find out how they dealt with the cleanup. The departure of news media in the months after the initial explosion left coastal Louisianans to quietly rebuild their lives. Berlinger’s documentary provides critical insight into a story of recovery in the wake of the disaster.

The environmental justice focus of the film

The Louisiana fishers, business owners, and communities whose livelihoods depend on coastal resources like shellfish, bivalves, and fish were hit hard by an environmental disaster in which they played no part. Although they received some financial settlements, many aspects of their livelihoods, like the loss of fishing culture and community, were not accounted for. By focusing on the spill’s broad impact on the local communities, the film highlights the efforts of residents who are fighting for environmental justice in the wake of an environmental catastrophe.


Related Films

Shelter in Place

An intimate portrait of a community battling against environmental pollution…

Standing on Sacred Ground: Profit and Loss

From the rainforests of Papua New Guinea to Canada’s tar sands, Standing…

5x5: Voices of Change from the Forests of Indonesia + Hope: Indigenous Climate Change Solutions

Five short films from Indigenous communities across Indonesia show their…