By the River of Babylon

An Elegy for South Louisiana

America ReFramed Season 3
  • Feature Film
  • 2015
  • 59 Mins

BY THE RIVER OF BABYLON: An Elegy for South Louisiana looks at the disappearing culture and environment in Southwest Louisiana: its marshlands and man’s calamitous engineering mistakes, and the unique habitat that gave rise to the Cajun and Creole, music, culture and people left in its wake. With compelling footage and expert commentary from Bob Marshall, a local Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, among others, the film documents the facades and interiors of a good number of famed but decaying dance halls. Riveting performances by leading Zydeco proponents such as Clifton Chenier and Beau Jocque are juxtaposed by thorough and thoughtful explanations such as the rapacious dredging of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet through wetlands to give oil tankers direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana, a major source of energy for the nation, is being destroyed bit by bit and the region’s ecosystem and marshland continues to be damaged by flooding due to both storms and river reconstruction. Like the famed music of the region, the documentary is both a love letter and a lament over the destruction of the region and by association, the decline of its culture and way of life.

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Film Credits

  • Don Howard Writer, Editor, Director
  • Jim Shelton Producer
  • Lee Daniel Cinematography
  • Dacoda Bartels Cinematography
  • Justin Hennard Sound Recording, Design, and Mixing
  • Megan Field Producer

Critical Acclaim

By the River of Babylon: An Elegy for South Louisiana weaves a story of a man-made environmental loss into the very beautiful and sad music of the region, and raises some disturbing questions of cultural survival.

Moody College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin, Radio-Television-Film Colloquium