Tags: bayou, BP/Oil Spill, deepwater horizon, documentary filmmaking, environment, family, fishers, gas, gulf spill, hydrology, land reclamation, Louisiana, louisiana story, mineral rights, MRGO, new orleans, offshore drilling, oil, oil exploration, oil waste, oysterman, petroleum exploration, robert j. flaherty, spoil islands
Filmmaker Jon Goldman returns to the land of his great grandfather, Louisiana, to discover the true cost of progress through oil exploration, sixty years after the historic cinema of Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story with interviews and his own animation.
In this classic animation, a Martian learns of all of the wonders of oil production and progress, except any environmental costs, social costs ( wars ) toxic costs or waste-related by products. One of many films produced by the American Petroleum Institute.
We met Michael at Dean Blanchard’s place on Grand Isle. ( we’ll hear from Dean in an upcoming clip) Dean is the largest shrimp broker in the region. Michael is a fifth generation Shrimper who skippers his shrimp trawler with his wife, Wendy. I received word a day or two after this interview that he had, in fact, finally been called by BP to help with the cleanup. I am hoping to follow up soon.
We met Gary Cure onboard the Donna Ann. He is an affable fellow, a hard working oysterman who looks to BP to make thing right. He also looks to that oil company to employ him again as a worker on the spill because it is the only thing bringing in anything. It is the waiting though that is making him uncomfortable.
Mercedes Calvert is a gracious French-speaking Cajun woman who remembers her childhood in Pointe Aux Chennes,Louisiana as wonderful except when the oil companies came to her house and stayed for three years drilling and prospecting for oil, leaving the spoils behind without any real compensation. “No one got any sleep, it was horrible, ” she recalls. In those wistful memories she remembers the marsh being endless, never having a glimpse of the gulf. Today those marsh grasses are mostly water, and tomorrow or soon thereafter will be oil-soaked. To her the 1948 classic “Louisiana Story” was beautiful, exactly as she remembers it, except for the real parts without sleep. I like to explain in a playful pun on the title of my film, that we are ALL IN THIS FAMILY. Pointing out that with the Louisiana accent, the word “oil” is pronounced “all”. It takes a family and for that I thank my cousin, Maxx Sizeler and her former partner Bea Calvert, for the introduction to Mercedes, Bea’s mother.
I do not know how to measure satisfaction, courage, dedication or perspicacity. On our recent journey through the bayous of South Eastern Louisiana, though, I met an empathetic fellow named Glenn Sanchez who had a winning way about him. Sanchez embodies the character of the people here. He and every other fisher here has been through Hell and back at some point in their lives. The recent hurricanes, not withstanding, they are survivors. They have watched their world deteriorate before their eyes and through circumstances beyond their control. Their marshes disappear, their oyster beds covered by storm after storm, their livelihoods threatened over and over again. And yet, like a fishing buoy they pop back up, somewhat wizened, sunbaked, and glad to be in a place they love, despite the hardships, heartaches and setbacks they endure. With the recent crisis, it may have all ended. The oil is now hitting the shores of this sacred place, but it is the lack of knowing what the future will bring that keeps him on edge. Here, 60 miles southeast of New Orleans, in the place where the eye of Katrina passed directly over head, he and everyone he knows is staring at the end of a culture directly in eye.
I write you having finally reached our arduously sought after goal. And thanks to you we can continue to tell this story. Please take a few minutes to watch this recently edited piece about Glenn.