Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Chattahoochee Unplugged" and "Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek" at DC Envionmental Film Festival

Today, I saw a double header of two “featurettes” from the DC Environmental Film Festival, at the Carnegie Institute of Science in Washington DC.

The first of these was “Chattahoochee Unplugged”, 56 minutes, directed by Rhett Turner and Jonathan Wickham.  The film presented the process of demolishing two obsolete dams on the river at the Fall Line as the river passes by Columbus, GA (near Fort Benning) and Phenix City, AL.  The purpose was in large part to open the river up to white water rafting and kayaking on this Fall Line.  The film, shot in very high definition with good views of the scenery of the river and of downtown Columbus (there seemed to be a park on the Alabama side), focused heavily on the technical process.

I see that I talked about my own furtive experience with kayaking at a company function (at Great Falls MD) in August 1997 on a “BillBoushka” blog posting Oct. 9, 2007. 

Of course, the river was the setting for the famous 1972 film “Deliverance”, by John Boorman with its dueling banjos, and the journey into moonshine country on the Cahulawassee River, which is about to be dammed up.  Remember that Burt Reynolds, John Voight, and others run into some real sadists, and Reynolds gets his chest scraped, or shaved. And then there’s worse.

I’m also reminded of the 1976 film “Ode to Billy Joe”, with Robbie Benson, directed by Max Baer, Jr. although the river (in Mississippi) involved there is the Tallahatchie.

The second film, two hours later, was “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek”, 60 min, conducted by Leah Mahan.  The film tells the story of Derrick Evans, who in 2001 was teaching American history in underprivileged sections of Boston.  He returns to his family home at Gulfport, MS, in the wetlands of Turkey Creek, five miles from the Gulf of Mexico.  This was an area settled by African Americans during the Reconstruction.  (I think that is also true of some of Biloxi.)  Gradually, development of Gulfport has encroached on the area, partly for an airport, partly for new real estate following the casino business.  The politics of governor Haley Barbour enter into the picture.  Paving near or in the wetlands reduces the ability of wetlands to absorb storm surge and increases the risk of flooding to residents.

That fear is born out in 2005 Hurricane Katrina (some of the destruction is shown) and later Hurricane Rita.  The film shows FEMA trailers lined up, to show how inadequate the government’s response was.  Derrick returned to help, and then in 2010, the community was devastated by the BP oil spill.  The film says that Derrick had placed himself in great financial jeopardy, owning buildings in Boston but unable to work if he was going to help out his family with its political fights in Mississippi.

This film played before a large, almost full auditorium.  The panel discussion featured statements by Derrick, Leah, and two other individuals.  I’ll include more about these soon on my new “Media blog”. One speaker encouraged people to move South to help out.  Someone has to be willing to live in high risk areas.  

The film was largely in somewhat grainy video, although an ad for the Gulf resorts was ironically in sharp definition. The film was sponsored by Sundance.

Update: April 1, 2014

I've placed the YouTube clubs form the QA for "The Battle for Turkey Creek" on a new media review site, here
Wikipedia attribution link to picture of downtown Columbis, GA.  I made one visit, in Nov. 1994. Some pictures here from Bay St. Louis, MS, taken by me in Feb. 2006. 

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