I never intended to be another Katrina filmmaker. I had come down to St. Bernard Parish, to volunteer in a community kitchen. But within days, I started a storytelling "booth" where local residents could tell their stories to a camera, and perhaps have a document to replace all the photos and films that were ruined. And that's how I met Mama Sue and her daughter, April. They literally wandered into the frame, and talked -- for days.
And I began to realize that aside from the enormity of the destruction all around us, there was something more fundamental that had been destroyed -- something that went beyond the pretty brick homes, and streets and even the monumental destruction that had been done to the natural environment. After a week cutting onions, I was pretty sure I didnԴ understand at all what I was seeing.
So I moved down to Violet, a hamlet in St. Bernard, for several months and then kept going back, for more than four years, trying to understand through the eyes of this particular family, what it means to survive a major natural disaster a year later, two years later, five years later. I learned how easy it is not to survive.
Stood for the Storm chronicles the journey that Sue and her family embark on when they decide to stay. As they dig out and rebuild, they bring that take-no-prisoners honesty New Orleanians are known for and boundless creativity. Along with a few highs, they also reveal a steady stream of oh boy lows
Beyond that, they reveal the politics of their home and neighborhood. Sue had been stranded on her rooftop in a predominantly black part of town (Sue is white) and her eyes were quickly opened to the preferential treatment that certain people in her community receive.
But things get even closer to home when she attempts to navigate the new terms of her marriage. As April gets close to graduation, she too is looking at her options in a new light. Coming of age after Katrina demands a vault into maturity.
What it's really about
So the film explores age-old themes under the glare of new circumstances -- what used to be considered a once-in-a lifetime event, but which is no longer so rare. Since Katrina, we've seen Irene and Sandy; the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma; the towns in Arizona swallowed by flames.
As each of these disasters flares and then fades from the news cycle, I now think about Mama Sue, April and Lou and how thousands of situations like theirs have now been created. My goal for this film is to begin the conversation about what a major disaster engenders over the long - term and what we must do as a community, as a nation to ease that struggle for our fellow citizens.