Image  —  Posted: March 8, 2012 in The People

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.


Classic Animation Explains Oil

Posted: March 2, 2011 in THE FILM

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.

Wilma Subra

Posted: February 28, 2011 in INTERVIEWS, The People

Wilma Subra, long a hero and friend of mine, travels from New Iberia, Louisiana to help communities across the world deal with environmental justice issues. As an community activist and an environmental chemist she shows people how to make corporate and federal bodies accountable. There is a reason she won the MacArthur Award, and here she tells of possibly the largest environmental disaster in the history of the US. Why does she do it? She wants the world to be a better place for her grandchildren….

Clarice Friloux

Posted: February 27, 2011 in INTERVIEWS, The People

We met Clarice Friloux through my cousin, Maxx Sizeler and her partner, Bea Calvert. Bea’s mother, Mercedes Calvert, was an interview we conducted in Metarie, Lousiana, and she had said we should really talk to her niece who had led a fight against an oil company and won.

The case, for obvious reasons, drew a lot of attention nationwide. She is from the Houma Tribe of Native Peoples and has openly fought to have the waste of the oil industry dealt with, primarily because it is often dumped in her backyard.


In open pits which have become aeromatic causing respiratory issues like asthma, bloody sinus conditions and making people in her community sick. She ultimately settled out of court with the oil company about ten years ago, where they were required to build berms around the site, and eventually cap it.

Ten years have passed and nothing has changed. People are still getting sick. And potentially (if the winds are right ) a gigantic oil spill will be headed right in her direction with no protection or natural buffer because the same oil companies have dug many canals rendering any natural possible hydrological exchange impossible. These canals and pipelines have decimated the marshland. What was once, according to Mercedes, endless brackish marsh with no glimpse of the Gulf, is now all salt water for as far as the eye can see. All because of the fourth element in the manufacture of oil: transportation ( The other elements being extraction, marketing and storage. ) please watch the posted video….

[vimeo 19773195  width=”400″ height=”300″ ]

Jon Goldman sewing an inflatable sculpture (1988)

Sixty three years before a deep water oil drilling platform near the Mississippi Delta exploded into U.S. History, Robert J. Flaherty (who made “Nanook of the North,” and is considered the father of the American documentary) was commissioned by Standard Oil in 1948 to make a film about oil exploration. The result was “Louisiana Story,” which portrays the excitement and the rewards a Cajun family receives when a drilling rig sets up on their bayou. It also is prophetic in revealing the tension created when we disrupt the interdependence of the natural environment and those traditional cultures who live in relation to that environment.

By exploring his family’s connection to Flaherty and the Louisiana Story, environmental artist and filmmaker Jon Goldman returns to the land of his great grandfather, discovering how industry changed forever the vitality of a region and sacrificed the real cost for prosperity.

Still from "Louisiana Story"

The film parallels one artist’s celebration of a threatened way of life and another artists need to confront the consequences.The story becomes a conversation on how to change the future.

It is a story about a family’s Louisiana legacy revealing how we are OIL IN THE FAMILY. OIL IN THE FAMILY combines a personal narrative with scenes from “Lousiana Story”and will push the boundaries of documentary and docudrama. The film explores the complex issues surrounding oil exploration, extraction and manufacturing through my own animation,

a page from the Graphic Novel OIL IN THE FAMILY

classic animation, interviews and personal stories. It depicts the impact on family and the larger context of how it has changed that place where the original story was filmed.

Robert Flaherty, motion picture director,hailed as the father of documentary films. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The filmmakers return to the original film location sixty years later and examine the real impact oil exploration and the powerful petrochemical industry has had and continues to have on the South Central region of Louisiana, its people, its economy, the indigenous landscape and the larger world.