Being a Cajun myself – one associated with the culture through last name and my father’s past memories – the story of Bayou Corne, LA as presented in Forgotten Bayou is particularly heartbreaking. It represents a community that’s getting farther and farther away from me and a way of life I’ll never quite understand. Whenever these “things” (to me and many, they’re more than that) are lost, it’s distressing and depressing all around. Forgotten Bayou tries to address this loss with a mournful celebration of life, with a second line and all.
It’s not a documentary that minces its intentions once; Clearly, filmmaker Victoria Greene and crew (or krewe) are in the corner of the residents and the community at large, showcasing the triumph and the tragedy, the fun party and the clock striking midnight. Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish is described in Utopian ways, with people feeling “closer to God” living on the water. Indeed, one gets this sensation of being at peace just from watching the swampy vistas and the light glistening off the environment. Of course, this is a setup for the tale of the sinkhole – caused by mining brine – that resulted in the mandatory evacuation of the area. The drama that came must’ve been rich, but wasn’t fully explored.
It is a documentary that gets muddled often; Interviews with homeowners, scientists, local officials and corporate policy men, while extraordinary by the mere fact of having landed such footage, often repeat information over and over, stepping over one another even. Perspectives shift in instants, laying blame for what happened to Bayou Corne at the feet of one, who then pass it on to someone else and so on. No revelations are really made nor any conclusive resolution to the fault of the accident – deregulation is hinted at, but not really given time to shine – as Forgotten Bayou appears to be more concerned with sharing its story as a supplement to a travelogue than a film with a strong thesis statement. It feels a few cuts away from being complete and, honestly, perhaps twenty minutes too long.
However I rate it, one can’t deny the filmmakers’ craft and passion here. Greene and her team of mostly (or maybe all) locals work Forgotten Bayou with tenderness, cleverness, and care towards those who were directly involved with and directly harmed by the sinkhole. It’s not investigative but it is empathetic. It truly has a love for the region and its people and, thusly, shares this with us in a touching and lovely way. Rarely in modern cinema has this setting been so well photographed and captured, to the point of breathing and feeling the air.
I wish we had seen more of the “The Driftwood Man”. His short screen time was most memorable for the philosophy he spoke and his words transcribed across the images (due to his thick accent). I imagine his backstory being similar to that of the Uncles on my Father’s side that I never got to meet. Lots of siblings, barefoot adventures, and a romance with the bayou itself. Forgotten Bayou is that if nothing else: Romantic. And shouldn’t celebrations of life be just that?
RATING: 2.5 / 5
Forgotten Bayou will play at Chalmette Movies starting Friday, August 31st.