Archive for September, 2010

Finally a NOLA Interview

It’s been three days since we first arrived here in New Orleans, and I’ve finally had my first interview. Today I was dropped off at Tulane University to film a student organization called, MSA Tulane. This group is made up of primarily Muslim students coming together to help out and become more involved with their community. Today was their first meeting in quite some time, so they’re starting from the ground up. As well as filming the meeting, I filmed a member of MSA Tulane, and asked him a few questions dealing with Muslim culture and Islamic faith. As well as allowing me to film their meeting and conducting an interview; I was given two locations for mosques in the local area. Now, I just need to get myself over to those locations and film. I’m feeling the pressure of time, but I believe I can get it done.

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New Orleans Texture

One of the greatest things that I noticed about this city is its textures. There are so many different textures within the city’s walls. I have seen gritty non-touchable textures, smooth textures, forbidding textures,  it’s just a mass collection of textures.

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We’re Here!

Finally, after six long weeks of prepping I have finally arrived in the Crescent City. The atmosphere of this place is unlike any other. Everyone in this city seems to know every Louisiana story no matter the age or generation, and the city is absolutely full of history. The buildings look like they were grabbed from a scene in a movie set in 1800’s France, but with a modern twist. The colors of New Orleans is incredible! I have never seen such vibrant colors painted on a house such as: lime green, hot pink, bright purple, and so many more. There is however, a sense of grittiness to the city, but it seems to add to the charm. The grittiness of the city seems to represent its history and strength in staying together no matter what is thrown at it. The people of New Orleans are kind and giving, and I can’t wait to see and learn more.

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When the Levees Broke

I have recently watched the movie, “When the Levees Broke”, which is a documentary in four acts discussing the entire Katrina disaster directed by Spike Lee.  The first thing that struck me as odd was the fact that people were unwilling to leave the city of New Orleans. Ray Nagin, the mayor at that time, issued the first ever mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina had reached a category 5, and it was no longer safe within the city. There were many people who had automobiles and get out of the city. There were also many people who went to the Superdome, for the Superdome was the only place that could hold large masses of people and withstand category 5 winds. Although, there were many people who stayed in New Orleans, due to lack of transportation, handicap, or just stubbornous. There were many people who had experienced Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and if they could handle that catastrophe, which had been the worst natural disaster in the US until Katrina, they could handle anything coming their way.

When Hurricane Katrina finally made land fall it came with a horrible fury. The one response that was repeated in the movie was that the sound of Katrina was deafening. One man had said, “It was like a freight train in your ears for hours…” The winds were causing glass to break, trees were falling down, houses were being stripped bare, and it even ripped open the roof of the Superdome.

Suddenly, during the storm there were 3 explosions, and when this segment of the movie began to play I knew the 3 explosions were the levees giving way. What I did not expect was many people of New Orleans believed that there were explosives set into the levee. When I heard this I thought was absolutely ridiculous, but in the 1920’s the men of power running New Orleans purposefully blew up the levees and drowned out St. Bernard Parish as to not endanger better areas in the city, and even during Hurricane Betsy there was rumor that they blew the levee to keep the more expensive houses from damage.

Now, the most shocking thing about Hurricane Katrina is, yes, Katrina did do some extensive damage, but the real issue was the levees breaking and the poor engineering. After Hurricane Betsy the levees had started the rebuilding process, and they were still working on the levees in 2005 forty years later. Katrina backed up a category 1 hurricane into the lake and that is what broke the levees. Once the levees broke water started pouring through the manholes, all 27 pumping stations slowly stopped working and 80% of New Orleans was under water.

The first people to respond to Katrina was the United States Coast Guard, and they broke the rules and improvised their rescue missions just to get the people of the Crescent City out and alive. People from the projects all had boats, and everyone from their community was helping one another out. Sean Penn, a famous actor, was even helping his fellow New Orleanaens.

Now, the problems that ensued after Katrina had come and left and the levees broke were extreme. The heat that summer was off the charts. You had 20-30,000 people waiting for help on the highway and at the Superdome. There was no water, no food, and people could not get their medication. The elderly people and the sick were beginning to die. Dead people were being pushed to the side and blankets were tossed over their body with a note pinned to them. Looting started to become a problem. You had people looting for food and water, and then you had people going to electronics bringing big screen TVs out. There were even cops that were grabbing DVDs and looting themselves. Due to the mass chaos people started acting irrationally. People had weapons on them, people were shooting innocent people that they thought were looters such as, Darnel Herrington, who was shot by a shotgun twice. The Superdome started running out of resources, but more and more people were still getting dropped off there.

One thing that became shocking to the people of New Orleans was other nations were willing and able to help before our own government. Canada and Venezuela were just a couple of nations that immediately sent help and resources to New Orleans. The current president at the time was President George W. Bush, and he said he had no idea about Katrina, which  is funny, because there are serveilance cameras that recorded him prior to Katrina hitting that showed him discussing the risk and damage Katrina would cause. The Bush Administration were doing a horrible job at responding to the tragedy. It had become day 4 and 5 after Katrina hit, and the government still hadn’t responded. There was so much political nonsense, and people focussing on Iraq that the people of New Orleans suffered.

Finally, Ray Nagin did an impromtu radio interview with WWL Radio complaining about the lack of resources,  and  government response to the aftermath of the storm. People started listening in after that interview and the President finally brought in reinforcements. One person that sticks out the most is Lt. Honroe, which Nagin describes as, “The Black John Wayne”, who came down and started putting order back into the city. People were beginning to be evacuated from the Superdome. You had thousands of people lining up to get into the Hyatt Hotel, and thousands of people fleeing to the Louis Armstrong Airport.

After the government finally responded more issues began to arise. People wanted and needed to get out of the city, so they went to the airport and got on a plane. Although, they had no idea where they were going, if they knew anyone that could take them in, or where their family members that were with prior to the storm were. People from New Orleans were sent all over the county, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, New York, the list goes on. Parents were being separated from their kids, and families were being displaced.

Now, the US must deal with the clean up of New Orleans and the rebuilding, but of course that can’t go smoothly either. People that were displaced and put up in hotels are now being evicted, for FEMA can’t pay for their hotels anymore. The US is now calling the people of New Orleans, their fellow country men refugees. There are bodies that had been found 6 months after the storm hit within houses that supposedly had been checked. There was a 30% increase in deaths in Louisiana due to post traumatic stress disorder after Katrina.

The most shocking thing that came out of this movie for me was the fact the US government is what really broke and destroyed New Orleans not the storm. “Your whole history under a pile of rubble,” stated by a young man walking around his neighborhood after Katrina. The people of New Orleans are strong and resilient and I praise them for having the strength to endure the hardship and strife caused by the lack of preparation of our government. My heart goes out to you New Orleans.

 “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

 I miss it both night and day

I know that it’s wrong…this feeling’s  gettin’ stronger

The longer, I stay away”

 ~Louis Armstrong

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“Hollywood South”

Recently, I was given a link to an article on the film industry in Louisiana. I was quite surprised to read that Louisiana played such a huge role within the film industry, but there has been a lot of movie production traffic trailing through and setting up camp in the state. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Expendables” are just a couple of the big name productions that have been shot in Louisiana. 

The reason for the mass numbers of movies being shot in Louisiana is the budget and the actual location for set design. Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the state has been trying to dig itself out of the financial hole it fell into. Therefore, every dollar that you spend in Louisiana you get 30% back in rebate and every person that you hire onto your film from Louisiana you get an additional 5% rebate. (USA Today)

Also, Louisiana itself is such a diverse state that it is easy to create whatever state, country or era in time within its borders. Louisiana can be made to look like Mississippi, France in the 1800’s and just recently it was dressed to play the surroundings in the comic book adaptation of Jonah Hex, which is a western.

I do hope that I like Louisiana when I visit at the end of the month, and I have a feeling I will, for I may be living there following my movie career!

http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2010-08-03-louisianafilm03_CV_N.htm

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