Desert Bayou
R0 - America - Cinema Libre Studio
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (16th February 2008).
The Film

On August 28th, 2005, New Orleans was warned about a devastating hurricane in the form of Katrina. Some citizens got out of there while the getting was good, while others stayed behind feeling that they were used to this sort of phenomenon. When Katrina hit, it was a Category 3 storm. The result? Eighty percent of New Orleans is flooded and people are stranded without power, food and water. The U.S. government didn't act right away in the wake of Katrina. In fact, people wondered if the U.S. government even cared. I know a great many of us in the United States contributed to relief funds to help out the citizens of New Orleans. I don't remember the exact total of the contributions (some being from other countries outside the U.S.), but it was a LOT.
"Desert Bayou" (1:31:54) starts off with Hurricane Katrina from the first warnings that were broadcast to people evacuating or staying. When help finally did reach out to the people of New Orleans, it seemed there was hope. We see some of the black community (600 citizens) get on a plane and go to Salt Lake City, Utah : without knowledge of where they are going. It seems well at first. But then there is some dissention among the citizens there. Those people going to Utah were subjected to all kinds of background checks. If many of them felt out of place coming into Utah, then they end up feeling even more out of place as a result of the checks. But some of the former New Orleans inhabitants didn't let it bring them down. In fact, they kept their heads up. In no time, this part was soon a bad memory. However, some of them still feel pain when it comes to the memories in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Some find it in them to push past it and move on, while others give in to the pressures of drugs. You will also see footage featuring recording artist Percy 'Master P' Miller (also a producer on this documentary).
One of the things I liked about the documentary was that the former occupants of New Orleans (most of them being of the black community) who were forced to make their new homes in Salt Lake City were able to make that adjustment from an old life to a new one. Some of them went through hard times, but they were able to move on. I admired them for their courage. I also liked that both the good and the bad points about Utah had come out. The good being that there were people who went out of their way to help these folks adjust to their new lives and integrate them to become part of their culture. The bad would be that there were also people who were racist against them or wouldn't extend their trust. I suppose that's always going to be the hard part, no matter what race, creed, or color you are. Probably the biggest plus here was a message that was conveyed by one of the rescuers: Our government can be quick to help out the other countries when something happens (like a recent tsunami disaster), but when it comes to our own people they're in no hurry to help. In fact, it was a good four-to-five days before something was finally done for the inhabitants of New Orleans. I could probably go on-and-on, but to do so would lead to spoilers.
My final word: I don't know if there are other documentaries available covering Katrina and what happened after, but this is definitely one to watch. You may very well be surprised at just how things happen in times like this. I know after watching it, I don't dare say that something like this could never happen to me. It's possible that the people living down in New Orleans probably said the same thing, and look what happened to them. I think it will also make people take a second look at the U.S. government (if they haven't already). It's definitely worth a view. If you're one of those people who don't like watching disasters of this sort and would prefer to stay away from reality, then keep watching those Industrial Light and Magic visual effects films. Sometimes, those just might be a safe haven from the harsh realities depicted in documentaries as such. Please note: This documentary is not for children, as there is profanity. Parental discretion is advised.

Video

The film is presented in anamorphic Widescreen format (1.85:1 ratio). Cinema Libre did a great job on the transfer, which looks exactly the same as the screener edition I first looked at before getting the finished product. The colors stand out really nice. You only see grain during the scenes in which actual background footage is taken. There is also some in scenes where there is darkness. Other than this, there are no pixels or dirt present. Even the video on the extras looks great. The screener edition I saw earlier didn't have any chapter stops. This finished product makes good on this as they are included.

Audio

This release features an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. There are no subtitles available. The audio seems to be a little low, despite the fact that the dialogue comes out of both speakers simultaneously. However, you can still hear the background noises without much difficulty. Also, keep in mind that this isn't a big-budget Hollywood movie. This is an independently-made documentary.

Extras

Cinema Libre has included an audio commentary, the film's theatrical trailer and five interview segments (Q & A fashion) round out the bonus features presented on this DVD. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Director Alex LeMay's audio commentary is very scene specific. As soon as the footage comes up...BAM!! He's got something to say about the place or the person. When he's got nothing to say, then the audio from the feature film comes back up. It's definitely not a repeat of the other extras on this disc. If you're looking for technical stuff, you will not get much here. If you're only looking for the technical, then you'll want to skip this commentary. If you want to know more information that you didn't learn from watching this documentary, then this track is for you.

The first of the five interview segments is with Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. and runs 9 minutes and 10 seconds. You will see questions on the screen and then he proceeds to answer them, which is how it works for all five of the interview segments presented here on this DVD. He makes it a point to talk about how the state of Utah is different from other states. In fact, they are kind of a melting pot of sorts. I feel that many of the right questions are asked towards a politician. He seems to answer them with honesty (no long pauses).

The second of the five interview segments is with the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson. It runs for 37 minutes and 21 seconds. It is the same Q & A format as the previous interview. He seems positive with each answer that he gives. He mostly talks about how Salt Lake City is and how they welcome people with open arms. He also says how the United States should be, instead of what it is now. He even goes into race relations and how poor the Bush Administration acted in the wake of Katrina. Further, he doesn't have too many kind words to say about the Bush Administration.

The third of the five interview segments is with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and runs 39 minutes and 13 seconds. Here he tells his story about the obstacles that were placed in front of him once it was revealed that some of the Katrina evacuees would be coming to Utah and how he overcame them. Very interesting.

The fourth of the five interview segments is with Civil Sheriff Paul R. Valteau, Jr. and runs for 14 minutes and 6 seconds. He talks about how foreclosures on properties have gone up since the in New Orleans since Katrina. He talks about some of the things that have happened in these instances, some good and some bad.

The last of the five interview segments is with Marcus Henry-LaCouvion, a displaced resident of New Orleans and runs 19 minutes and 27 seconds. Here, he gives you his first-hand experiences of what he had to go through during Katrina and what happened after. It is definitely NOT a good story.

Rounding out the extras is the original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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