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Wetlands join list of Katrina victims in `Hurricane'

Environmental effects of the loss of vital barriers and the storm's devastation come into sharp focus in this Imax documentary.

September 08, 2006|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

Positioned as somewhere in between the eggheady activism of Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and the anger of Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke," the new Imax film "Hurricane on the Bayou" examines the effect of Katrina on the famed bayou-country wetlands of Louisiana.

Director Greg MacGillivray began his project in early 2005 as a look at how the loss of wetlands as an environmental "speed bump," slowing the progress of storms heading inland, could potentially make New Orleans more vulnerable to a large-scale hurricane. He was planning on re-creating the effects of a Category 5 storm when Hurricane Katrina hit and Mother Nature provided special effects more spectacular than any he could have likely ever imagined or afforded.

The film is narrated by Meryl Streep, but it is 14-year-old Cajun fiddle prodigy Amanda Shaw and blues guitarist Tab Benoit who serve as de facto masters of ceremonies by telling their own tales of loss and survival amid the hurricane and its aftermath. To tie Louisiana's culture to its environmental struggles, the film makes way for a few zesty musical numbers. New Orleans visionary Allen Toussaint, always dapper in no less than a shirt and tie even under dire circumstances, also appears and plays.

Seen on an Imax screen, the now-familiar imagery of the devastation in New Orleans and other areas takes on a new resonance as the sheer size of the affected areas is felt more fully. The format likewise brings into sharp focus the scope of wetlands being lost.

Sweeping shots of the bayou, as Shaw and Benoit race along in a flat-bottomed boat, are a real highlight. Rather than dwell on response, policy issues or finger-pointing, MacGillivray opts to keep things moving, touching briefly on various points rather than examining anything too deeply. The film feels somewhat truncated, such that rather than being a full investigation it serves more as a primer on issues for further discussion and exploration.


`Hurricane on the Bayou'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Released by MacGillivray Freeman Films. Director-producer Greg MacGillivray. Writer Glen Pitre. Director of photography Brad Ohlund. Editors Jim Foster, Neguine Sanani. Running time: 40 minutes.

Exclusively at the California Science Center Imax Theater, Exposition Park, 700 State Drive, Los Angeles. Expands to other Imax locations nationwide Dec. 22.

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