Award-winning Post-Katrina Documentary Screened at DiMenna-Nyselius Library
Fairfield University, as part of its Urban Vision Film Series on Cities, presents a screening of “Belly of the Basin,” the award-winning post-Katrina documentary film co-produced by Fairfield University’s Roxana Walker-Canton, Assistant Professor of Visual & Performing Arts, at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 14, 2013, in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library Multimedia Room.
There will be a discussion and Q&A with filmmaker Roxana Walker-Canton following the screening. Admission is free and open to the public.
“Belly of the Basin” documents the devastating effects of New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina and presents individual stories of survivors and volunteers. The 90-minute film poses questions about the value of human life in relationship to race, class, and politics, while scrutinizing the media’s coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath. The film was co-produced in 2008 by Professor Walker-Canton and Professor Tina Morton, an assistant professor at Howard University.
“We began the project by attending a Survivor's Conference in Mississippi in December 2005, after the flood,” said Professor Walker-Canton. “We began interviewing people affected by the flood, and then traveled to New Orleans to see the overwhelming devastation. We witnessed the emotional distress of all of the people with whom we spoke and saw first hand their community totally destroyed. There was an eerie silence, no sounds of children, no birds, no movement. Destruction all around, no matter which way we turned.”
The two film-makers made over ten subsequent trips back to New Orleans. They worked on the film from 2005 to January 2008, and also returned several times to assist with relief efforts. Professor Walker-Canton, who taught at Connecticut College at the time, received major funding for the film from the college’s presidential initiative that funded projects focused on natural disasters.
“I was motivated to produce this documentary because of the poor journalistic integrity that was demonstrated with many of the news stories that were aired on television. Many of the stories focused less on the human story and focused more on issues of property and looting,” said Mrs. Walker-Canton. “I understood that there had to be a different perspective about the plight of the Black residents of New Orleans' Ninth Ward. In many of the news reports, the residents rarely were able to tell their own story. I wanted to produce a documentary where people could tell their stories from their perspective and in their own voice.”
Since its release, “Belly of the Basin” has been screened by universities and seen on college campuses throughout the country as a call for social activism among students. The film has been presented at many film festivals including the Hollywood Black Film Festival, where it won 1st prize for documentary in 2008. “Since the flood, various professors around the country have designed courses to study New Orleans or have sponsored trips to help in the efforts to rebuild New Orleans,” said Professor Walker-Canton. “'Belly of the Basin’ has been used in classes focused on Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, social activism, and documentary production. The documentary also can be used to discuss representation of Blacks in the media, African American independent filmmaking, issues of race and class in social activist efforts, as well as other issues.”
As part of Fairfield University’s New Media Program, Roxana Walker-Canton teaches courses in documentary production, scriptwriting, and African American Cinema, among other courses. Her documentary and narrative creative works focus on the politics of space, place, and land as they relate to African American history and culture. Her other awards include Best Experimental Film from the University Film and Video Association for “Point of No Return,” a reflection about the slave dungeons in Ghana.
“Although Fairfield is 1400 miles from New Orleans, I would hope that this story is relevant because it is an American issue,” said Professor Walker-Canton. “I hope that ‘Belly of the Basin’ is relevant to the Fairfield community, because what happened in New Orleans speaks to the status of race and class relations in America more clearly than anything else in recent years. I hope that the story is relevant to the Fairfield community, because if it isn't, then what is?”
The DiMenna-Nyselius Library is located on the campus of Fairfield University. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.quickcenter.com