“Hurricane On The Bayou” is a film made by Greg MacGillivray, released in 2006, one year after Hurricane Katrina had devastated large areas of Florida, Louisiana and Alabama. It is the story of what happened told largely through music. Four New Orleans musicians introduce themselves, share their experiences of the hurricane and pay tribute to the people of the whole area but especially New Orleans. Their songs illuminate the feeling of defiance and solidarity that has helped New Orleans and the other areas affected to recover and rebuild. The four musicians are: singer, songwriter, pianist, producer, and Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee Allen Toussaint, Cajun Blues guitarist and wetlands activist Tab Benoit, teenage violin virtuoso Amanda Shaw and the man who discovered Amanda and helped produce her first album, zydeco accordionist Chubby Carrier.
The film contrasts images and film of the New Orleans area before and after the flooding, which affected around eighty percent of the city for many weeks, destroying most of New Orleans’ transportation and communication facilities and leaving tens of thousands of people, who had not evacuated the city, with little or no access to food, shelter and other basic necessities. The flooding, happened largely as a result of engineering flaws in the construction of the levees, the flood protection barriers built around the city. New Orleans is surrounded by water, with Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and the floods came from both, as the storm surge drove water over and through the barriers, into the city, much of which lies below sea level.
Over one million people are thought to have left the city before the storm struck. Many could not or would not return. The city government set up refuges for people who had not left the city, including the Louisiana Superdome, which sheltered approximately 26,000 people and provided them with food and water for several days.
“Hurricane on the Bayou” ends in New Orleans in 2006, during the Mardi Gras celebration. Allen Toussaint, Marva Wright, Amanda Shaw and Chubby Carrier join forces for a fantastic performance of a hymn written by the film’s composer, Steve Wood, in the oldest Cathedral in North America, New Orleans’ beautiful St. Louis Cathedral.
There is a CD of the music used in the film, which is augmented by songs by Fats Domino and the Neville Brothers. The music reflects the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans, including jazz, blues, gospel and folk pieces, and is a fitting tribute to the people who died and to those who led the recovery. It is also a powerful insight into the Soul of New Orleans.