"Vanishing Pearls" director Nailah Jefferson

“Vanishing Pearls” director Nailah Jefferson

*The cinematic tradition of documentaries is ripe with powerful renderings about man and his constant battle with nature. A noteworthy example of this is the probing and provocative new film, ‘Vanishing Pearls.”

Focusing on a tiny village of black fishermen whose way of life has been forever altered in the aftermath of BP Oil Spill in 2010, Vanishing Pearls gives powerful testimony to the aftermath of this tragedy that will resonate far into the foreseeable future. For filmmaker Nailah Jefferson telling the story of the people who have proudly made their lives out on the Gulf is one that is worth preserving for future generations to know.

As the film makes its way across the country, the Robertson Treatment is proud to present an interview with Jefferson to talk about her goals and purpose in making this film.

Robertson Treatment: So what made you want to do this story?

Nailah Jefferson: I never really paid too much attention to the bayou communities, but knew that they contributed to rich tradition of New Orleans, especially in terms of our food. After the spill took place and the bayou communities were being inundated with oil, I knew it could have a very negative impact on New Orleans. After all, the seafood New Orleans boasts comes from bayou communities like Pointe a la Hache. That’s what initially caught my attention.
After the spill I visited Pointe a la Hache for the very first time with just a Flip cam in tow. I was captivated by the water, the landscape and the people and I met with Byron Encalade, President of the Louisiana Oystermen Association who told me about the history of the fishing families who have been working in the Gulf waters for over a century. I learn how big of a threat the BP spill and the subsequent cleanup efforts were to his community. That’s when I knew I had to make this film.

I was saddened by the fact that I was just being introduced to this place as it was on its way to vanishing. I knew we had to tell their story, if not to help save them, then at least to let the world know a place like this once existed.

RT: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

NJ: It is such a complicated story. The biggest challenge was balancing the information and showing how past decisions have directly affected the present situation these fishermen are experiencing. This story really stretches back to the early 1900s when oil and gas exploration began in Gulf waters and started impeding on fishermen’s rights to the waters. However, we were able to balance the focus on history and the present situation by allowing the fishermen’s voices to tell the story. Staying true to them and their struggle is what Vanishing Pearls is about.

RT: How did the oyster fishermen react to you wanting to tell their story?

NJ: His son in law was the one who thought we should meet, which made gaining his trust a lot easier. Once Mr. Byron endorsed what I was doing, it created an opportunity that opened up the rest of the community to me. He really is the leader, so if you’re introduced to the fisherman through him, that means a lot.

I promised them that I’d make sure we’d put a story together that allowed their voices to be heard and one that could possibly have a positive impact on the community. That’s always been the goal.

RT: What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?

NJ: Definitely raising the money and definitely sticking with it [the film]. There were these other documentaries about the oil spill that are coming out in the market, and you’re thinking no one is going to want to hear this story. I made a promise to the community, but I knew the story wasn’t done a year after, 2 years after, even 3. I spent 3 and ½ years shooting this film. I knew we had to give it some kind of finality, even though it’s a story that is still very much in progress. When the spill occurred, there were all these questions about what it would do to the environment, and now we’re telling you that the two-year timeline for the recovery is not true because we’re 3 and ½ years, 4 years out.

RT: How has the community responded to the finished film?

NJ: They’ve been happy with it. That was one thing that I worried about. They put a lot of trust in me to tell their story, which was a huge responsibility. I wanted to be fair and objective. I also wanted to serve their purpose, which was to possibly aid their community.

It’s the first time their history has been put on film. One of the patriarch’s in the community, Reverend Edwards told me that a book came out a couple of years prior about the history of Plaquemines Parish [in Pointe a la Hache], and he asked the author, “Why aren’t there any African Americans in this book?” and the man responded, “Well, if you want a story about y’all, write it yourself.” So hopefully with this film, this part of history will be addressed.

Visit: www.vanishingpearls.com/ to find a theatre in your market. 

BEST BETS: THEATRE

“A Raisin in the Sun”

There are plenty of good reasons to see the current revival of the classic Lorraine Hansberry play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” which for generations has tested the talents of some of America’s greatest talents. The show, which is currently on a limited run at Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway is the all-star line-up of A-list veterans that’s led by multi-Oscar winner Denzel Washington; the Oscar nominated actress, Sophia Okonedo and the hugely talented actresses, LaTanya Richardson-Jackson and Anika Noni Rose. Directed once again by the uber-talented Kenny Leon, the latest incarnation of the play masterfully drives home the central theme of the play, which is what can happen to a family when all of their dreams are deferred…

As the play unfolds, audiences are introduced to the Younger Family, a distressed family who for the first time are given an opportunity for a better life from an inheritance following the death of the family’s patriarch. Of course, everyone has different designs for the money, which is where the drama unfolds that pinches the frayed nerves of the family. When the family matriarch (Jackson) decides to use the bulk of the money as a down payment to buy a home in the suburbs and entrusts her errant son Walter (Washington) to “handle” the balance that she intends to split between him and her med-school bound daughter, Beneatha, the results are predictable and explosive. This play’s adept exploration of thorny family dynamics is one of the elements that make it such a crowd pleaser.

Not surprisingly, every actor delivers a solid performance. Although Washington is clearly an “older” Walter, he still embellishes the role with an air of gritty realism that is exceedingly effective. The rest of the cast: Okonedo, Rose and Jackson are marvels to watch, with Jackson especially powerful (in a role that she took on at the last minute) as the weary Younger matriarch . An excellent supporting cast (Sean Patrick Thomas, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Stephen McKinley Henderson, David Cromer and Jason Dirden rounds this ensemble out.

A great play, with a great cast always equals a good evening out at the theatre and that’s just what you will get with “A Raisin in the Sun”.

Grade: A+

AUTOMOTIVE SPIN

Hyundai Santa Fe

Arriving in Atlanta after a tiresome red-eye, I was immediately put at ease when I saw this ride waiting for me at the airport. With at least 45-minutes to go before I finally made it home after my overnight flight, I settled into the Santa Fe’s spacious comforts with confidence for the ride ahead. Driving wise, I knew it was going to be a good week!

Wow Factor: With design features that include a solid frame, that’s complimented by a thoroughly comfortable interior, Hyundai’s Santa Fe does in fact remind you of the city for which it was named as it offers you a memorable experience that keeps you more than satisfied.

Ride: Powered by a 3ml, V6 engine that supported by an agile 6-speed automatic transmission, the Santa Fe is able to respond to a variety of on-the-road needs. The ride’s ample cabin is also sufficient to accommodate small and mid-size loads. These are features that score big points and directly in line with the needs of today’s driver.

Comfort: The luxe leather interior infuses the Santa Fe aesthetic that motorist will find pleasing. Its plush appearance is augmented with superior standard features that include dual-zone climate control, heated seats (in the front and rear) and easily manageable controls.

Spin Control: Hyundai’s Santa Fe succeeds in offering the three things that car buyers are looking for: comfort, reliability and efficiency. That along with an average MSP ranging from the mid-20s to the mid-30s, and a 20 city/27 hwy. MPG, gives this ride strong value that will undoubtedly translate into great appeal among drivers across demos.

Grade: A

Gil Robertson is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author and president of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).

 

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