Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans
Photos and Video
Faubourg Tremé is a first-person documentary by New Orleans natives Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie. Drawing on several years of pre-Hurricane Katrina footage, the film brings alive the history of Black New Orleans through an in-depth look at one historic neighborhood, the Faubourg Tremé. Executive produced by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Nelson, the film follows journalist and first-time filmmaker Lolis Eric Elie, who sets out to renovate his 19th-century house in this now deteriorating neighborhood. Drawn to the architecture and its mix of old and new, Elie soon finds that the history of this place is the real story. This once vibrant neighborhood, he learns, was in fact the center of African American economic independence and political activism from slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. In recent years, the Faubourg Tremé, now more often referred to as the Sixth Ward, has suffered from blight, drugs, and crime, and even more recently was devastated by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina-the effects of which we see here in heartbreaking detail. Yet Logsdon and Elie bring an insightful perspective to the retelling of this community's past, particularly through its literary and musical artifacts. The result is a fresh approach to historical documentary storytelling. The filmmakers interview prominent historians to elucidate the facts, but mostly what we hear and see is the music, dance, poetry, and voices of contemporary residents. We meet people several years before Hurricane Katrina and follow their stories through the storm's aftermath. We come to understand that, just as it has in the past, this deeply rooted community is determined to rebuild and to persevere.
– Nancy Schafer
Tribute to St. Clair Bourne (1943-2007)
As an emerging star producer of the Black Journal team at NET back in the ’60s, St. Clair Bourne was already aware of the importance of telling the African American story from an African American point of view. He fought for the right to tell that story as he saw it and, as his films indicate, he stayed the course throughout his entire career as an independent filmmaker. St. was also a natural born leader. In the midst of making his own movies, he found time to advise, counsel, and support several generations of filmmakers. St. Clair Bourne was nothing less than the conscience of the Black American filmmaking community. He has left us a legacy of films that will continue to inform and inspire future generations of Americans, both Black and White.
– William Greaves
Preceding the first screening of Faubourg Treme, filmmaker William Greaves will share a few words about the late filmmaker St. Claire Bourne and will show highlights from some of Bourne's films.
Director's Statement Collapse
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.
We are both products of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in this city. Our parents were Civil Rights activists. We were each sent, along with our siblings, to integrate New Orleans schools—Lolis to an elite all-white private school, Dawn to an inner-city public school that was abandoned by white parents after desegregation. Our childhood memories are of picket lines, voter registration drives, and dreams of a new New Orleans. In our film we chose to focus on an earlier 19th-century Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans and the music and writing that was born of those dreams. 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 becomes part of the discussion about how we as a city and a nation can move forward, drawing on the best from our heritage and learning from its mistakes, to help heal and rebuild New Orleans for all New Orleanians.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Glen David Andrews, Lenwood Sloan, Eric Foner, Brenda Marie Osbey, Irving Trevigne, John Hope Franklin
Executive Producers Stanley Nelson, Wynton Marsalis
Producer Lucie Faulknor, Dawn Logsdon, Lolis Eric Elie
Screenwriter Lolis Eric Elie
Director of Photography Diego Velasco, Keith L. Smith, Bobby Shepard
Editors Dawn Logsdon, Sam Green, Aljernon Tunsil
Composer Derrick Hodge
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Dawn Logsdon produced and directed two short documentaries, Theresa: A Grandmother's Journey and Tomboy. She edited the 2004 Academy Award®-nominated documentary The Weather Underground and the Sundance-winner Paragraph 175. She was living in New Orleans when the levees breached, flooding her house and neighborhood. Lolis Eric Elie (b. New Orleans) writes thrice weekly on New Orleans neighborhoods for The Times-Picayune. He is currently writing Of Bondage & Memory, a book on the slave trade. Lolis is also a producer for the Smithsonian Institute's Jazz Oral History Project. He lives in Faubourg Tremé where he is still fixing up his Creole cottage.