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Louisiana Water Stories Series
SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories

Investigates how the exploitation of Southern Louisiana's abundant natural resources compromised the resiliency of its ecology and culture, multiplying the devastating impact of the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina.

A printer-friendly version of this page 62 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Jon Bowermaster
Produced by Oceans 8 Productions
Edited by Chris Cavanagh
Written by Jon Bowermaster, Chris Cavanagh
Camera: Jefferson Miller, Brian C. Miller Richard
Executive Producer: Mark Paul Terk
Music: Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars

"A great crash course that deftly addresses the ecological, economic and social issues facing Louisiana." David Burley, Asst. Professor of Sociology, Southeastern Louisiana University
Everywhere you look in Southern Louisiana there's water: rivers, bayous, swamps, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico. And everyone in Cajun Country has a water story, or two or three or more. Its waterways support the biggest economies in Louisiana - a $70 billion a year oil and gas industry, a $2.4 billion a year fishing business, tourism and recreational sports.

They are also home to some insidious polluters: the same oil and gas industry, 200 petrochemical plants along a 100-mile-long stretch of the Mississippi known "Cancer Alley," the world's largest Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico and erosion that is costing the coastline twenty five square miles of wetlands a year. At the same time, SoLa is home to one of America's most vital and unique cultures; if everyone who lives there has a water story they can also most likely play the fiddle, waltz, cook an étoufée and hunt and fish.

SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories is a poignant look back at a way of life that may now be gone forever, and a prescient view at exactly how the gusher in the Gulf was allowed to happen. Thanks to corruption, malfeasance and the Louisiana industrial and political climate, environmental pollution seems to be simply a cost of doing business.

Filmmaker Jon Bowermaster has recently completed a powerful sequel to SoLa called After the Spill.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2011     Copyright Date: 2010
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-996-8

"SoLa is the most comprehensive film on southern Louisiana that I have seen. It is a great crash course that deftly addresses the ecological, economic and social issues facing Louisiana. Not only does the film point out Louisiana's importance to the rest of the nation but every part of our nation faces some manifestation of these issues. It should be a wake up call for us to stop looking to corporations to cease doing the wrong thing or trying to regulate them into doing the right thing. Instead, I hope this film is a piece of what inspires us to start taking back power by creating vibrant local economies. That framework remains in many places and SoLa shows the local economic vibrancy that still exists, although threatened, in coastal Louisiana and the essential cohesive for community and family that it provides. This film should help inspire our youth to 'work' for ecological, economic, and communal health."
David Burley, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Author, Losing Ground: Identity and Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana

"This is a superb treatment of how the oil and gas industry threatens not just a way of life in southern Louisiana but life itself. Water is the centerpiece of cultural and ecological health in and around New Orleans and it is being ruined, slowly, by neglect and greed. SoLa should be a wakeup call for the country."
Lee Clarke, Professor, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University, Author, Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination

"For most Americans, Louisiana is a unique place, distinct from the rest of the country in several ways. In this film, Jon Bowermaster has illustrated connections between Louisiana and the Midwestern states that are the source of considerable fertilizer runoff via the northern tributaries of the Mississippi River. Moreover, Jon Bowermaster does not ignore the fact that we all share the need for food, energy, clean water, and jobs. Rather, he asks: How does one estimate the combined economic and environmental price we pay for these necessities? This core environmental question facing Americans is explored in depth in this film. As such, the film is a valuable educational tool in informing scientists and policy makers, present and future."
Dr. Daniel Janies, Associate Professor, School of Biomedical Science, The Ohio State University

"SoLa is a beautifully filmed and moving story about a way of life that is threatened. Its relevance, from an educational perspective, is with the rapidly growing field of environmental studies which, more than many of our traditional disciplines, put humans in the ecosystems and in environmental change...An excellent overview."
Dr. Robert Gramling, Professor of Sociology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Author, Oil on the Edge: Offshore Development, Conflict, Gridlock, co-Author, Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

"At the center of the story, the filmmakers raise the important questions of how power dynamics between local citizens and corporations affects the livelihood and future of these communities...The rich cultural traditions of Southern Louisiana, ranging from music to food, run in tandem and at times contradictory to the interests of the petro-chemical and logging industry. For instructors interested in discussing the connection between place, meaning, and culture, the film provides useful examples of how competing interests of corporations can adversely affect the well-being and cultural ties of the surrounding communities."
Liam Hysjulien, University of Tennessee, Teaching Sociology

"SoLa is a powerful documentary that does an excellent job of interweaving economic, political, and environmental issues in pointed and powerful cultural narratives about unrestrained capital destroying the traditions and ecological health of a vitally important region. The lessons should resonate with all of us in the sense that nearly every part of the globe faces some version of these problems. The documentary's attention to the relationships among local cultures, state power, and corporate influence make it ideal for the classroom and for anthropology courses in particular."
Steve Striffler, University of New Orleans, Anthropology of Work Review

"Raise[s] myriad social, economic, and governmental issues...Demand[s] that audiences engage in soul-searching about who we are as a nation...Useful as the starting point for a discussion of what should be valued by society: people over profits, health over short-term wealth, and family business over polluting corporations. It is a superb introduction to the threat posed by the oil and gas industry to life itself."
Dr. Caryn Neumann, Miami University of Ohio, 49th Parallel

"Given the recent flooding of the Mississippi basin, including southern Louisiana, this timely documentary concerns the importance of the Louisiana watershed to both the state and the country...This well-made and comprehensive film is highly recommended."
Library Journal

"As we continue grappling with the escalating and vexing dilemmas surrounding energy policy, the film offers another critical analysis of the uneven distribution of burdens and harms in the networks of energy production, consumption and waste. It shows that these problems are not limited to Louisiana, but implicate the entire nation that depends on the region for shipping ports, seafood and biodiversity in addition to oil and gas."
Jessica Smith Rolston, University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthropology Review Database

"[Sola] is awash in anger and outrage at forces that threaten the ecosystems and livelihood of those who make their living from the waters (including the Gulf of Mexico) of Louisiana. Staggering statistics abound, but the gripping personal profiles put a human face on the ecological devastation and local culture."

"An alternatively appealing and appalling view of south Louisiana...Recommended."
Jim Hobbs, Loyola University, Educational Media Reviews Online

"A compelling narrative told by a series of long-time local activists...The issues South Louisiana faces resemble the dilemmas other coastal areas will face with rising sea levels and intensified coastal weather events. This fragile coastline, with established fisheries and intense resource extraction activities, does not represent a sustainable situation...Other coastal locations around the globe will likely see similar, slow retreats--not wholesale and rapid abandonment. So South Louisiana stands as a bell weather for other coastal locations...This engaging documentary should offer satisfying insights."
Craig Colten, H-Environment, H-Net Review

Select your institution type

DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
includes 5 short films under the title "Gulf Stories: Voices from the Spill" plus scene selection and SDH captions

The film's trailer

Awards and Festivals
Chris Statuette, Columbus International Film + Video Festival
Best of Festival, CMS Vatavaran Environment & Wildlife Film Festival and Forum
Woodstock Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
Geography of Hope Film Festival, Point Reyes, CA
Gray's Reef Ocean Film Festival, Savannah, GA

American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Environmental Justice
Marine Biology
Natural Resources
Oceans and Coasts

Social Justice
Toxic Chemicals

Related Titles

After the Spill
The oil and gas industry has historically dominated Louisiana politics and is largely responsible for the state's rapidly disappearing coastline.

Come Hell or High Water
When the graves of former slaves are bulldozed in Mississippi, a native son returns to protect the community they settled.

Black Wave
The story of the Exxon Valdez and the 20-year legal battle to get restitution from ExxonMobil.

Blue Vinyl
Filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold use humor and chutzpah in their search for the environmental truth about vinyl.

When Is Enough, Enough?
A small Cree band in Alberta battles major oil companies for their land which lies on top of one of the world's richest oil deposits.

Baked Alaska
Looks at the battle over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the context of Alaska's accelerated warming.

The New Rulers of the World
Award-winning journalist, John Pilger, investigates the realities of globalization by taking a close look at Indonesia.

A close-up look at wetlands ecology.

Secrets of the Salt Marsh
An overview of salt marsh ecology.

A Sea Change
Ocean acidification threatens over one million species with extinction--and with them, our entire way of life.

Black Sea
Scientists and religious leaders meet to find the solution to the Black Sea in crisis.

Swim for the River
The story of the Hudson, and the battle to save it, are told as Chris Swain swims the entire length of the river.

Drumbeat for Mother Earth
Toxic chemicals are the greatest threat to the survival of indigenous peoples.

In Our Own Backyard
Lois Gibbs brilliantly leads her fellow residents in Love Canal in this classic documentary on the nation's first encounter with toxic waste.

Addicted to Plastic
Reveals the history and worldwide scope of plastics pollution, investigates its toxicity and explores solutions.

Homo Toxicus
Explores the links between the hundreds of toxic pollutants in our environment and increasing health problems.

Toxic Bust
Explores the relationship between breast cancer and exposure to toxic chemicals.

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