Hurricane Katrina was a far greater disaster than 9/11 was.  Everyone knew it was coming, the evacuation was clearly botched, the immediate recovery effort looked more like a scene from a Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movie than something the most powerful nation in the world would have done, and the long-term recovery of the entire region is stagnant at best.  It was a catastrophe on a scale as grand as America herself.

Into this mess comes Desert Bayou, the latest movie from director Alex LeMay.  Bayou swarms with issues of poverty, race, religion and politics in this tale about the 600 post-Katrina refugees who were, without their prior knowledge and only the slightest shred of consent, airlifted to an isolated military base in Utah.  Utah is, after all a very fitting place for 600 lower class African-Americans from New Orleans to be stranded, as it is perhaps the whitest, and certainly most Mormon, state in the Union.  What follows is a tale about survival (eyewitness accounts from refugees about how they survived both the storm and it’s aftermath), hope (Utah did offer to take refugees and house and feed them and perhaps offer them a new life in a new state), conflict (the welcome and response of the citizens of Utah and the military leadership at the camp where the refugees were housed were less than warm at times), and redemption.

Although it contains interviews from recording artist Master P and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (of TLC’s Shalom In The Home), the story focuses around two main characters and their families:  Curtis Pleasant and Clifford Andrews.  Both had lived rough and dirty lives before the storm and look at their new chance in Utah as a time to make a clean break from the past.  The results are compelling, heartbreaking, and heartwarming.

The DVD also contains interviews with Rocky Anderson, the mayor of Salt Lake City, and John Huntsman Jr, the Governor of Utah, to provide some of the political background and ramifications of this decision to house the refugees in the white state of Utah.

This film is a devastating and hopeful look at America, her people, and the hope we all hold close.

This DVD is available at desertbayoumovie.com.

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