Fifty years ago an oil spill united a community and changed the world forever
Christopher Lloyd narrates Better Together, a feature documentary about how one community keeps coming together through oil spills, fires, mudslides and the future challenges of a changing climate.
Upcoming screenings include:
Better Together, narrated by Christopher Lloyd ("Back to the Future", "Over the Garden Wall"), is a celebration of the power of community to affect lasting positive change. Focused on the Santa Barbara oil blowout, this coastal community has pioneered environmental laws and policies to protect water, air, soil and living creatures... including each other. We're better together.
The catastrophic effects of four million gallons of oil spilling on the ecologically rich Santa Barbara Channel for most of 1969 changed Santa Barbara forever, and ignited a global shift that resulted in new laws and protections for environmental health. Through the years, the community has continued to come together in the face of disasters.
This 47-minute documentary covers community response from that 1969 oil spill across five decades to the devastating 2018 Montecito debris flow, and the community-generated response to climate change.
The effects of the 1969 oil blowout were felt across the world, inspiring Earth Day, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
Better Together features an array of local activists, including Direct Relief’s President and CEO Thomas Tighe, as well as California thinkers and scientists like oceanographer Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich (author of The Population Bomb) and Solution Project’s founder Mark Jacobson.
Santa Barbara is rich with community organizations, several of them like the Community Environmental Council, the Environmental Defense Center, and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, were born directly out of the 1969 oil spill. They are featured in Better Together alongside the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and many others. The newest of these organizations is the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, which has gathered over 3,000 volunteers to dig homes and trees out of the mud. It was born, coincidentally, on the 49th anniversary of the oil blowout.
Director Isaac Hernández (Madrid, Spain) offers a poetic and hopeful look at what’s possible at a global level through local action, featuring many solutions generated in Santa Barbara, from the birth of curbside recycling to the first microgrid in the continental United States at Direct Relief’s headquarters.
Funding was provided in part by Bobbie and Gerry Rubin. Executive Producers include Lynda Weinman (Diving Deep, 2019; The Tale, 2018; Unrest, 2017), Leslie Bhutani (Lutah, 2014) and Linda & Frederick Gluck.
Better Together was the Environmental Showcase Film at the Santa Barbara Surf Film Festival (November 2019), won the Best Documentary Feature at the Santiago Independent Film Awards (August 2019), and was a finalist for the Best Environmental Documentary at LA Femme International Film Festival (October 17-20, 2019). It was also a finalist for the Ted Turner Prize and official selection for the 2019 BZN Film Celebration (September, 2019) and the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (February, 2019), where it held its World Premiere.
About the director
Isaac Hernández came to America from Madrid, Spain to study film at Brooks Institute of Photography. His career took him into photography, journalism, painting and writing plays, before returning to produce short films for nonprofits, and finally directing his first feature.
He’s working on a memoir about the impact of censored American films during his childhood in Franco’s Spain, and thinking about his next film.
About the producer
Nancy Black was president of the Pesticide Awareness and Alternatives Coalition that successfully campaigned to reduce the use of pesticides in public parks and schools. She serves on the board of The Israel Palestine Project, Committees for Land, Air Water and Species (CLAWS), and Gaviota Coast Conservancy.
About Mercury Press International
When Nancy Black and Isaac Hernández met in 1991, they had a dream to make films together. They founded an animation company which evolved into Mercury Press International, and went on to publishing stories and photographs in over 300 publications in 27 countries, including Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, ESPN, Focus, Stern and USA Today. Now they produce books (including In Love With Earth by environmental elder Marc McGinnes, which chronicles some of the stories in the film Better Together), documentary films and journalistic videos for nonprofits (clients include United Way, Direct Relief, Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, Tri-Counties Regional Center, CALM, and UCSB Arts & Lectures).
Leslie Sweem Bhutani
Linda and Frederick Gluck
Director of Photography
Zegar Family Fund
Funded in part by
Bobbie and Gerry Rubin
Featuring (in order of appearance)
Linda Eckerbom Cole
Sofia Arabella Martin
Robert H. Sollen
James "Bud" Bottoms
Roderick Frazier Nash
President Richard Nixon
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson
Heather Smith Wennergren
First Camera Operator
Second Camera Operator
First Assistant Editor
Heather Smith Wennergren
Assistant Sound Engineer
"Better Together" © Jack Johnson/Brushfire Records/Universal Music
"O" © Emiliano Campobello
"Elk Prayer" © Emiliano Campobello and Kevin Donoho