Photographer Terri Garland, who has worked on several projects in the south since the 90s, is currently crowdfunding a documentary film project on Hatchfund. Louisiana, Purchased is an extension of a photography project Garland has worked on for years concerning people living side by side and in direct contact with the large oil & gas refineries that are strung along Louisiana's coast & waterways. That series was supported by the Blue Earth Alliance and recently featured on Oxford American's website.
Garland has documented the back roads of Mississippi and also provided photography training to young people of Isle de Jean Charles in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, a coastal community that will not exist later in this century due to coastal erosion. However, this new documentary film will focus on the small unincorporated town of Mossville, west of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish and the potential (possibly inevitable) uprooting of its residents-descended from freed slaves-as a giant refinery prepares to expand its operations.
In a familiar story in Louisiana, this historical community has had to live with the effects of living so close to chemical refineries, and are now threatened with dissipation in exchange for oil & gas jobs, new students in public schools, and an expanded tax base.
Garland's project description explains, "Louisiana, Purchased will examine the history of community dissolution and relocation beginning with the 1830 Indian Removal Act up to present day corporate buyouts. Through interviews with community activists and tribal elders, the film will give voice to those who struggle for justice in the face of a government who has long favored the interests of big business over the welfare of constituents."
A detailed article posted on Mother Jones in the spring explains both the refinery expansion and the population Garland hopes to capture in her film, including these dark statistics:
There are 14 industrial facilities around Mossville, a community that's just five square miles in area. A 1998 EPA study found chemical toxins in the hamlet's air 100 times higher than the national standard. Another study found that 84 percent of residents had some sort of central nervous system disorder. Its residents at one point appealed to an international court, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on the grounds that the continued pollution of the neighborhood constituted environmental racism. (That appeal is ongoing.) [via]
Garland says investigations of corporate espionage will be another thread through the film, as many environmental groups have alleged that third party surveillance agencies are paid to keep tabs or disrupt their efforts to fight expansions.
She has already arranged some high-profile individuals to be a part of the film. Actor Wendell Pierce (Treme, The Wire) has agreed to narrate the film, and retired Lt. General Russel Honore, Dr. Robert Bullard (regarded by many as the 'father' of the environmental injustice movement), and MacArthur fellow and scientist Wilma Subra have all agreed to be involved.
"But most important will be the stories of those people whose homes, health, and futures have been impacted by the greed of industry," Garland said.
Donations to Hatchfund projects are tax deductible.
Ryan Sparks is the editor of Southern Glossary.