New Orleans .. The name itself conjures up chilling news stories of Hurricane Katrina’s powerful forces of nature, destroying this noble city of music in September 2005 -- along with the lives of its residents and jazz clubs. Beautiful, historic architecture and mighty, towering skyscrapers and hotels were leveled, pillaged, and utterly destroyed by winds, rain, and looters; while honest residents were scouring around looking for scraps of food and clothing in order to survive this horrible, cataclysmic event. Hurricane Katrina is possibly the worst natural disaster on record, to hit a modern day metropolis - reminiscent of the devastation of the San Francisco Earthquake early in the 20th century in 1906.
There’s a ray of sunshine and hope that’s surfaced however, in the form of a fabulous 46 minute documentary about New Orleans, made in 2003. It’s simply and appropriately titled New Orleans (The Crescent). It’s produced, directed and written by filmmaker and Louisiana resident, Edgar Rogers. This recent film depicts in detail many of the important buildings, neighborhoods, business district, wharf and shipping area; as well as roads, bridges, waterways and highways in New Orleans, that lead in and out of its surrounding area. This is all pre-Hurricane Katrina footage and beautiful to behold!
Sunny days with bright blue skies are a constant feature -- along with dry, safe roads and people nonchalantly walking to and ‘fro’ in this city that ‘once was’ -- but is also a city that has the potential of being great again!
This is an enjoyable pre-Katrina New Orleans viewed through the camera’s perspective, including peacefully serene drives along N’Awlins’ scenic thoroughfares like the Garden District and Audubon Park. These tranquil scenes greet the viewer, in a seemingly never-ending panorama. It’s as though we’re there ourselves, taking it all in and enjoying it first hand as the filmmaker and crew no doubt were themselves.
Driving along the expansive highway and bridge on the way into New Orleans is a scene filmed as if the viewer is a tourist seeing it through the front windshield of their car -- or through the side window of a passenger seat in a Greyhound bus. There are also scenes that look back in the direction that the car is driving away from. This creates the feeling of being in the car itself, as if we’re looking through its back window, while enjoying a family vacation. These priceless scenes are showcased from a professionally filmed viewpoint; but done with a human touch.
New Orleans (The Crescent) has lots of heart and soul in the many ways it painstakingly captures the spirit of New Orleans. One of its most important features is the way it depicts the various forms of architecture and thoroughfares. Included are memorable views of landscape, grassy areas, trees, atmospheric store signs in the French Quarter -- as well as business names on important buildings including the artistically-designed Bell South building among others.
There are also several buildings and neighborhoods featured, that are of lesser importance to some (in the poorer districts) including the foreboding Desire Projects. What seems like a never-ending panorama of boarded up windows and a four foot hole in one wall in this unfortunate area, denotes the poverty of the 9th Ward .. the hardest hit during Katrina in 2005.
These scenes of hardship, although not important to some, are important to the individuals who lived and worked there - especially those who have returned to their homes and businesses in the 9th Ward, and are attempting to rebuild their lives there again. This depiction might seem trivial to many, but is of prime importance to those with their hearts in this area. Although sad, capturing this pre-Katrina 9th Ward on film is important for posterity -- helping preserve the social history of New Orleans for future generations to look back on. This moment in time is also possibly the only ‘wealth’ (through live footage, like a family photo album), that residents of the 9th Ward will ever have. Most from this area lost everything when the 9th Ward was completely underwater during Katrina’s constant and heavy barrage of rain, and flooding when the levees broke.
New Orleans (The Crescent) is a film of the ‘city that was’ -- the city that no longer exists for anyone anymore the way it used to be. It’s a film that allows its residents and tourists and everyone who loves this city, a way to visit it once more. It’s a pilgrimage on film, that allows the viewer a chance to see New Orleans as it existed, before Hurricane Katrina took much of this beauty and historical significance away in one fell swoop.
This film is not just nostalgic, because it also successfully captures on film scenes of everyday contemporary life. It’s also a way to visit New Orleans once again the way it used to be. What’s more important however, is that its depiction of these buildings, streets, landscape, etc. that ‘were’, can be of crucial importance in helping those involved in restoring this splendorous city back to its former glory - back to the New Orleans that can hopefully be again!
Some of these sights include the breathtaking and affluent Garden District with its enchanting 100 year old trolley car sauntering along quaint and charming tree-lined streets, past enchantingly elegant Victorian gingerbread-style homes.
This documentary is a working model on film, (like an artist’s sketch that later turns into a painting). It covers every area of New Orleans showing architecture, landscape, etc. As such the scenes this film depicts, can be invaluable in helping rebuild New Orleans to the way it used to look, before Katrina’s unrelenting and merciless onslaught utterly destroyed the beauty and culture this city once had.
Simple everyday occurrences are depicted, like a France Road truck delivery, followed by views of the Port Of New Orleans with its many tractor trailers, and huge containers coming into the city or leaving for export abroad. Freighters docked on Lake Pontchartrain are seen loading cargo, in much the same fashion as sailing ships and riverboats did over a century and a half ago from this very same historic and important port.
One scene depicts 1350 Port Of New Orleans Place and the boulder its name is written on. The Hilton Hotel is seen standing tall in the distance. In September 2005 the Hilton was a life-saving place of refuge for many, during Katrina’s ravages.
Also featured is the now-infamous Super Dome, where many haggard souls trudged, hoping for food, water and safe shelter during Katrina. Instead, many encountered the New Orleans criminal element who harassed and victimized them while they were there.
On a lighter note, several billboards are featured, including one for Budweiser 'The King of Beers'. The Market District also figures prominently, where N'Awlins locals and tourists alike are seen purchasing fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood.
In another scene, a barge is seen cruising serenely down the wide river, while being pushed by an old-style tugboat. This looks nostalgically like a scene right out of the 1930s movie classic Tugboat Annie. There’s also an exquisite bird’s eye view of Canal St., followed by the towering heights of magnificent skyscrapers in the business district.
Special thanks is given in the closing credits to Paul R. Dauphin, manager of Corporate Communications, Port of New Orleans as well as Donn Young, who is Tour Coordinator for this important documentary. At the time of the filming in 2003, Young was also part of Corporate Communications for the Port Of New Orleans.
I feel it's important to note that there’s no narration whatsoever in New Orleans (The Cresent). There is however, a tastefully jazzy soundtrack throughout, featuring music that made New Orleans famous around the world as an international Music Mecca. This soundtrack ‘speaks the show in music’.
This ‘musical narration’ for New Orleans (The Crescent) includes several invigorating jazz numbers. Viewers are treated to these well-chosen arrangements, while watching pre-Katrina images of New Orleans unfold before their eyes. Some of the accompanying songs include Pat Martino’s "Mardi Gras" in the film’s intro. Also included are The Crusaders’ "Night Theme"; Freddie Hubbard’s "Life Flight"; Wes Montgomery’s "Road Song"; and Roy Ayers’ catchy and appropriate closing number, "Don’t’ Stop The Feeling".
All who took part in the making of this ‘New Orleans eye candy on film’ -- New Orleans (The Crescent) -- deserve a hearty thank you for helping keep alive and preserving the memory of New Orleans the way it used to be.
There’s a glimmer of hope within these preserved images of N’Awlins, that its former glory might return someday, through hard work, determination and love ... and as Johnny Pennino 'Sax King of New Orleans' (who lived through all of Hurricane Katrina with his mom and girlfriend Amy in the French Quarter) so aptly put it: "A generous helping hand from the ‘Man Upstairs’. I wouldn't be here without Him!" Or as rockabilly legend Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins affectionately refers to God as ... "’The Big Rocker’".
The invigorating soundtrack for New Orleans (The Crescent) is available through Human Utilities Whole Armour at their website: http://www.huwholearmour.com
An intriguing promo of New Orleans (The Crescent) can be viewed exclusively from this link at Human Utilities Whole Armour: http://www.huwholearmour.com/human_utilities_whole_armour.htm