Monday, June 23, 2014

Paul Stekler's History of NOLA Documentaries

Documentarian Paul Stekler has published a pretty comprehensive history of documentary filmmaking in New Orleans. He was part of the NOVAC-generation of transplants ('71 onward) and recently returned to make GETTING BACK TO ABNORMAL (2011).

The only omission in the article I'm aware of is Rick Delaup's awesome RUTHIE THE DUCK GIRL (1998) which was edited by the ubiquitous Tim Watson (mentioned throughout Stekler's article). RUTHIE is my favorite documentary about New Orleans precisely for the reason Stekler touches on in his introduction:

"New Orleans is no stranger to being depicted on film. Images of Mardi Gras, jazz musicians, and parades are familiar to most Americans." [emphasis mine]

He's right, and that's actually a huge problem for the city. The clich├ęs he lists are tired, threadbare, inexcusably hokey, and extremely narrow. It would be like if every film in St. Louis is set on the Gateway Arch, or every film in South Dakota set on Mount Rushmore. Fighting against the tradition of depicting New Orleans as a stereotype is why I make movies here and why I started this blog.

"From Panic in the Streets to the Mardi Gras acid-trip scene in Easy Rider to Cat People, Down by Law, and David Simon’s HBO series 'Treme,' New Orleans frequently appears on screen."

I also disagree with this. It's a very minor point, but his examples belie his assertion. The films he lists are separated by over a decade each, except for CP and DBL which are both '80s. A comprehensive timeline of NOLA cinema (ie. stories set here) would show that even with extremely generous criteria that includes little-seen independent films, until 2007 only one film was made every ~3-4 years here.

I promise to attempt to create that comprehensive timeline in a future post.

I love Stekler's photo in front of Schiro's.  I eat there all the time and set several scenes from my upcoming film LAUNDRY DAY in it. It appears to have only changed for the better in the last 30 years.

NEXT: 1993's HARD TARGET. It'll make you Woo-zy.

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