Desert Bayou: Katrina’s Refugees in the Mormon State

In documenting the post-Katrina lives of several members of New Orleans' enormous black evacuee population, Alex LeMay's Desert Bayou makes a fitting sequel to Spike Lee's opus When the Levees Broke. The film opens by reprising the indelible and shameful tableaux of horrors that unspooled in the days following the storm, but then quickly moves on to depict the plight of several African-American evacuees. Relief at rescue immediately turns to disbelief. Rushed to the airport by FEMA, the delirious group discovers, only as the plane is taking off, that they are bound for Salt Lake City. (As one survivor puts it: "That's when everyone lost it.") Upon arrival in the snow-white bastion of Mormonism, black folks who have just had their lives torn asunder are shuttled off to a military barracks, and subjected to criminal background checks. LeMay deftly follows the lives of two men, Clifford and Curtis, as they and their families struggle to maintain a spirited belief in a better day. Their stories reverberate as a poignant indictment of a social disaster that began long before New Orleans' poor, black, and elderly citizens were abandoned to die in the Superdome.

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