Faubourg Treme The Untold Story of Black New Orleans
A film by Dawn Logsdon & Lolis Eric Elie

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Directors' Statement

We are New Orleans filmmakers, one black and one white. With the failure of the federal levees after Hurricane Katrina, our entire city was transformed overnight into the symbol of all that has gone wrong in America, in particular its deepening racial and economic divide. Seared into the nation's consciousness are images of desperately poor black people trapped on rooftops and denied the most basic protection of American citizenship. Those images have come to represent black New Orleans.

Our goal in making this film was to tell the story behind those images. We chose to focus on one New Orleans neighborhood, Faubourg Tremé, a historic community that like much of the old city is predominantly African American, poor, and steeped in distinctly un-American traditions. For us Faubourg Tremé is quintessential New Orleans. We wanted to capture the spirit of this place that has persevered in the face of great hostility for centuries and created a culture and history that enriched America and the world.

These days, "character driven" documentaries are all the rage. In editing this film, however, we chose not to structure our story around the personal dramas of our wonderful individual characters but to highlight the larger drama of community. We hope New Orleans itself becomes the character you laugh and cry with, and come to love.

Our film focuses on a forgotten 19th century Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans and the music and writing that was born of those dreams. We ourselves are both products of a later Civil Rights Movement. Our parents were Civil Rights activists. We were each sent to integrate New Orleans schools Lolis to an elite all-white private school, Dawn to an inner city public school that had been abandoned by white parents after desegregation. Our childhood memories are of picket lines, voter registration drives and dreams of a new New Orleans.

Today, there's another new New Orleans in the planning and a new generation of young Americans trekking South to help in the rebuilding. Many of the battles of the past are being fought again. In the course of making this film, the Tremé neighborhood was transformed from one of the most rooted communities in America to among the most uprooted. Before the hurricane, one of the things old people loved to tell us over and over was "You can't possibly know where you're going if you don't know where you've been." Back then, this expression sounded to us like a simplistic cliché. After the flood, it became our mantra too. The history of New Orleans is littered with tragic paths not taken. But it's also rich with tales of brave uprisings, interracial collaboration, endurance and creativity. Our hope is that this film can help heal, educate and inspire at this critical moment in New Orleans' future."

Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie

For special screenings and public speaking inquiries with the filmmakers, please contact: dawn@tremedoc.com

A Serendipity Films, LLC production © 2014
Wynton Marsalis presents the Faubourg Treme Documentary Project