Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies premieres film on Manchac Swamp
Contact: Christina Chapple
FILM HIGHLIGHTS PAST, FUTURE OF MANCHAC SWAMP -- Writer and Producer Samuel C. Hyde Jr., far right, Director Charles Elliott, center, and Producer L. E. Wallace, second from right, confer during a break in the filming of the center’s documentary, "The Manchac Swamp: Manmade Disaster in Search of Resolution." The film debuts April 27 at 6 p.m. at the Hammond Regional Arts Center in downtown Hammond. At left, historical consultant Keith Finley helps actress Dana McKinney touch up make-up.
HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University’s Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies has produced "The Manchac Swamp: Manmade Disaster in Search of Resolution," a documentary film highlighting the past, present and future of the fragile, threatened wetlands.
The film will debut on Thursday, April 27, at 6 p.m. at the Hammond Regional Arts Center (the Levy Building), 217 E. Thomas Street in downtown Hammond. The event is in conjunction with the Southeast Louisiana Historical Association spring meeting, said the center’s director, Samuel C. Hyde Jr., Ford Chair in Regional Studies.
Hyde, who wrote and produced the film, said it is the product of more than two years of research conducted by the center staff through a $63,000 grant from the university’s Lake Pontchartrain Basin Research Program and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Center Assistant Director Keith M. Finley helped research the film, which was directed by Southeastern history faculty member Charles N. Elliott. Butch and Kirk Lee of Vivid Video coordinated camera work and post-production with assistance from L. E. Wallace Productions.
Shot on location in the swamp, the film incorporates rare Depression era video that Hyde said “reveals the historical progression of the Manchac Swamp from a majestic forest sustained by a robust ecosystem to the denuded environmentally fragile condition that characterizes the region today.”
“It details how the actions of man, from first European contact to the wholesale harvesting of the forests, have resulted in a radically transformed environment that harbors implications for the future that have been little realized, and even less openly discussed,” Hyde said. "It is a sad story of the implications of man acting with little concern for the consequences of his behavior.”
The film explains what happened and why from the territorial period through the Civil War and Reconstruction to the present.
“It is also a call to action in the hope that with sound political leadership and a motivated citizenry the consequences of the past may be mitigated and public awareness may prevent such ecological disasters in the future,” Hyde said.
He said the film also highlights the current condition of the region and the new challenges that confront the Manchac Swamp and surrounding area.
"Anyone who duck hunts, fishes or who has simply enjoyed exploring the beauty of the swamp is well aware that it is changing constantly and few would argue for the better," said Finley. "But with an educated, motivated public response we may be able to capitalize on the post-Katrina opportunity to secure funds to help reverse the continuing degradation of the region caused by more recent intruders such as salvinia grass and nutria."
Hyde said that in conjunction with the film the center is producing a publication that offers additional details on the swamp’s historical transformation as well as an exhibit specially designed to educate kindergarten through high school groups as well as the public.
The exhibit will include hands-on interactive learning tools, along with a specially designed "sound room" that will encourage exploring the environment through a variety of human senses.
Tickets for the film premiere, which will be followed by a reception, can be purchased in advance. For ticket prices and additional information on the film or exhibit contact the center, located in Sims Memorial Library, at (985) 549-2151 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., weekdays.