Why Vanishing Pearls is a Must-See: A Film Review

I often feel guilty watching Netflix, but I’ve recently found that watching something educational lessens the guilt of being unproductive. Luckily Netflix is home to a variety of informative films, including a range of fascinating environmental documentaries. I recently watched a documentary called Vanishing Pearls, which I highly recommend.


Directed by Nailah Jefferson, this film tells the story of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, through the perspective of the fishing community of Pointe a la Hache, Louisiana. Piecing together an assortment of different interviews, the film illustrates the community’s economic and cultural devastation as a result of the oil spill. The film brings to light the ways in which the Louisiana fishermen were mistreated by BP and the oil industry’s legal frameworks.


The documentary offers nothing fancy in terms of filmmaking technique and follows the standard format of any documentary. However, the movie offers new insight into the largest oil spill in history. At the time of the disaster, I was only thirteen years old, but I remember hearing about it and feeling like it was a big deal. The dialogue that I heard at the time was primarily dominated by the themes of the environmental crisis and the culpability of BP. Before watching Vanishing Pearls, I had been largely unaware of the economic hardships that the oil spill wrought, let alone the environmental justice aspect of the crisis. Exploring subjects of the role of science, environmental justice, power dynamics, and fact versus fiction, the film explores the complexity of the disaster.


Although the film covers a disaster that happened seven years ago, the topic is still exceptionally relevant today. Oil spill cleanup technologies and safety procedures are still the same as they were seven years ago and little progress has been made in the prevention efforts of future disasters. Given the current political climate, this fact is important to keep in mind. The Trump administration’s determination to return this country back to the era of industrialization through its efforts to undermine the EPA and environmental regulations, and to promote economic expansion through increased coal and oil production, makes the messages of the film especially significant.


“The world must know what they have done to this community. This place could’ve been a paradise,” says Byron Encalade, the president of the Louisiana Oysters Association. The statement seems to echo as a warning to the American people of the dangerous path of destruction that we are currently proceeding along. Our memory seems to be short, but we should not forget the devastation of the past because we must protect the future. Vanishing Pearls is a must-see documentary.






Emily Barber

Emily is a second year Society and Environment student. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental law and educate the public about current environmental issues.

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