This must-see documentary re: a long-struggling section of New Orleans hooks, respects and informs viewers.
FAUBOURG TREMÉ: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BLACK NEW ORLEANS is a relevant and well-crafted movie that respects long-gone, recent and current residents. The film informs viewers of the locale's unique history, providing glimpses of the neighborhood's twists and turns.
The Tremé is culturally and historically rich. It is also the U.S.'s oldest African-American enclave. This was news to me -a native of Harlem, a somewhat similar locale that is also (at a slower pace) experiencing massive change. As a resident of New York City, a coastal city that seeks to avoid Hurricane Katrina-like scenarios, I find the film's geography extremely relevant.
The filmmakers clearly love the Tremé. At a recent screening, the audience and I were taught a lot in an entertaining manner. Someone sitting in my row actually wrote 7 pages of notes. We were all led to feel deeply about the people the film introduced us to.
Accompanying such passion for its subjects, a big part of the movie's audience-engrossing power is cinematic craft. The movie shapes much at first glance, unrelated- material into something that is educational, has narrative threads, and is moving.
Viewers could have been presented a hum-drum or even blurry juggling act. However, images shown in FAUBOURG TREMÉ are sharp; transitions between portrayed figures and eras, handled deftly.
Period re-enactment tour guides, a home-restoration effort, exuberant mourning rituals, and the trivia-relegated Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case all receive screen time. So does a well-known natural disaster -Hurricane Katrina.
Reacting to the outrageously callous (and/or inept) government response, a library of Katrina related material is growing. Portrayals prompt almost push-button shock, anger and remorse. Everyone SHOULD be riled up by unnecessarily endured and poorly relieved suffering.
However, a few of the news clips, documentaries and agitprop I've seen overemphasize Katrina survivor victim-hood and powerlessness; some presentations do so to the point of almost celebrating pathology. These depict traumatized folk as one-dimensional, not quite human, and as lacking history, pre-disaster vigor and sense of agency.
FAUBOURG TREMÉ is no mere reaction to presidential/FEMA-failure. It succeeds because its creators take their subjects, the audience and film-making seriously. Seeing the movie was worth the time and money that I, a father of preschool children, spent but typically hoard. I plan to share the film with my children when they are a little older.
See this film; encourage your schools, libraries and public television stations to obtain and screen it.
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