Documentary Focuses on Santa Barbara's Community Spirit after Natural Disasters

Documentary Focuses on Santa Barbara's Community Spirit after Natural Disasters title=
Documentary Focuses on Santa Barbara's Community Spirit after Natural Disasters
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"Better Together" premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, 50 years after oil from Platform A’s blowout reached the shores of Santa Barbara. The catastrophic effects of four million gallons of oil spilling on the ecologically rich Santa Barbara Channel changed Santa Barbara forever and ignited a global shift that resulted in new laws and protections for environmental health.

 The 48-minute documentary covers the community's response from that 1969 oil spill all the way to the devastating 2018 Montecito debris flow, and on to community-generated response to a changing climate. "Better Together" covers somber moments of Santa Barbara’s history with humor, poetry, and a positive outlook. The voice of Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, 1985; Over the Garden Wall, 2014) provides warmth, inspiration, and gravitas.

Rich with interviews of local heroes, the film features many of the Santa Barbara organizations born from the oil spill and others influenced by those pioneers, including Get Oil Out! (GOO!), the Community Environmental Council and the Environmental Defense Center, the Environmental Studies program at the University of California Santa Barbara, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, born, coincidentally, on the day of the 1969 oil blowout’s 49th anniversary.

Among the honored activists featured in "Better Together" are influential local heroes, including Bud Bottoms and Selma Rubin (no longer with us), Direct Relief’s president and CEO Thomas Tighe, legendary Santa Barbara News-Press journalist Robert H. Sollen, as well as debris flow survivors and first responders, and global personalities like oceanographer Sylvia Earle, author Paul Ehrlich and Solution Project’s Mark Jacobson.

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 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.
Director Isaac Hernández (Madrid, Spain) earned a BA in Media from Brooks Institute of Photography before going into a career in journalism and then returning to making films. He’s well known for making short moving videos to promote the work of nonprofits. Nancy Black is the producer, and also Isaac’s wife and co-founder of their company, Mercury Press International.  

This love story to Santa Barbara is possible thanks in part to funding from Gerry and Bobbie Rubin. Executive Producers include Leslie Bhutani (Lutah, 2014), Lynda Weinman (Diving Deep, 2019; The Tale, 2018; Unrest, 2017), and Linda and Frederick Gluck. 

Poster: ©2018 Macduff Everton 2019, used with permission

Stay tuned for local screenings in the next few months. More information can be found at

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Flicka Feb 14, 2019 09:43 AM
Documentary Focuses on Santa Barbara's Community Spirit after Natural Disasters

Nick Welch's article on the 1969 Union Oil Blowout was in the Independent and is online at their site. Should be read by residents who weren't living here at the time. Gives a good explanation of the devastating spill that got international interest and brought about environmental reforms. Earth Day started here in 1970 in response to the horrible event.

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