Before Hurricane Katrina, Elizabeth Coffman and Ted Hardin began capturing the ecological and cultural loss of Louisiana's coastal wetlands, Cajuns' historic homeland, for their documentary Veins in the Gulf, and they kept at it through the ravages of Hurricane Gustav and the BP oil spill. Bayou poet and theologian Martha Serpas, Coffman's former colleague at Tampa State Unviersity, narrates the documentary, chronicling the emotional toll of environmental degradation for the region's residents. Veins in the Gulf screens for free, Wednesday 5/4 at 6 PM at Columbia College's Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Coffman, Hardin, Serpas, and wetlands scientist Nancy Tuchman will hold Q&A after.
Wetlands knock down rising flood waters and filter toxins, mitigating the damage from hurricane and contamination alike, so as they disappear the disasters hit harder and accelerate their loss in a deadly spiral. But the process has been underway for decades, spurred by canals dug for oil and gas extraction. And the levee system, designed to protect against flooding, contributes to land loss by diverting the flow of sediment away from the wetlands and into the Gulf. Hardin and Coffman, who teach film at Loyola University and Columbia respectively, are working with environmental groups to promote wetland restoration in Louisiana and elsewhere.
"The reception has been quite powerful so far," Hardin says. "Many folks state that they had no idea that south Louisiana is disappearing so quickly and that our country relies heavily on energy and seafood from the Gulf... Others have thanked us for showing the range of folks that are intelligent and are from Louisiana. A few even work in their local knowledge of wetlands and Army Corps activities and wonder how they can get more involved... At several post screening discussion we have worked in local issues about levees and wetlands—it seems to allow folks a concrete idea of how they can get involved."