News Release

Southeastern video wins awards as top environmental documentary

Contact: Rene Abadie


     HAMMOND – A Southeastern Louisiana University-produced video has been named “Best Environmental Documentary” in both national and international competitions by the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.
     “American Crisis, American Shame: The National Consequence of Coastal Erosion,” a co-production of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies and the Southeastern Channel, will be officially recognized at a ceremony in New York Oct. 22 prior to the festival’s second screening of the documentary. The documentary was also screened at the festival’s Los Angeles showing last July.
     Founded in 1993, the festival is one of the largest independent film festivals in the world and is recognized as one of the leading film events on the independent festival circuit, attracting entries from throughout the world.
     The documentary – which premiered at Southeastern’s Fanfare last year – is the product of three years of research and writing by Samuel Hyde, Leon Ford Professor of History and director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies, and Keith Finley, assistant director. Using scores of photographs housed in the center’s collection, the film is part of a larger project that includes a travelling exhibit and lecture series, all funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant written by Hyde and Finley with the assistance of biology professor Nick Norton.
     Hyde said the documentary is designed to highlight consequences of the methodical coastal erosion that is erasing the Louisiana coastline.
     “This is far more than a Louisiana problem; the loss of Louisiana coastland is an issue of national security,” he said. “As we looked at the increasing severity of the hurricanes that have devastated our region, we realized that the increased destruction corresponded exactly with the loss of our cypress wetlands buffer. With much of our national economy and energy infrastructure tied directly to the lower Mississippi Valley, we needed a vehicle that would make a wider audience aware of the peril we all face.”
     “Few people realize that we lose a football field size portion of our land to open water every 38 minutes,” Finley added. “It’s our hope that this documentary can serve as a wake-up call to the consequences of neglecting our coastland.” 
     The Southeastern Channel, the university’s educational cable channel, co-produced the 30-minute documentary, which also recently received awards from the Twin Rivers Media Festival in North Carolina and a Gold Award for editing in the national Aurora Awards competition.
     “This is an extremely prestigious international honor from the film industry,” said channel General Manager Rick Settoon, “and it reflects the quality we strive for in all our productions. Steve Zaffuto's fluid visual style of melding original and archival footage had a lot to do with the documentary winning." 
     The program aired last fall on the Louisiana Public Broadcasting network and runs regularly on the Southeastern Channel.
     “American Crisis, American Shame” is the fourth documentary produced by the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies in recent years. The work uses an original musical score composed by Southeastern student Brian Hansen and includes interviews with a number of scientists currently engaged in wetlands research.
     Directed and edited by Zaffuto, the piece was also produced with the assistance of other channel staff members including Josh Kapusinski, Jamie Bass, Claude Levet and David Fox.

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