My Louisiana Love first began when my best friend, Monique Verdin and her boyfriend, Mark Krasnoff started recording Monique’s Native American relatives in southeast Louisiana. Hoping to capture the Houma Indian’s struggle to live in bayou communities plagued with environmental injustice, they filmed eroding wetlands and interviewed Native elders. Their documentation shifted after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Mark and Monique started filming their personal struggles in the aftermath’s apocalyptic reality. But 13 months after Hurricane Katrina, Mark Krasnoff committed suicide. His untimely death left a heavy collection of tapes behind. I helped Monique move out of Mark’s house after his death, and I can vividly remember sitting in his home office as she shared his last written words with me. I could almost feel Mark over my shoulder while I read his wish for the documentary they had started to be completed and shared with the world. That day his last wish became my own.
Entrusted with the collection of tapes, I had a steep learning curve in not only understanding the issues but also in learning how to make a film. Inspired by Mark and Monique’s dedication to film, even as times got tough, I decided to keep the camera rolling. As we continued filming, the social and ecological injustice story kept getting bigger. BP’s oil rig exploded in 2010 and started leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico, revealing the seemingly continuous cycle of environmental crises occurring in Louisiana. My creative team and I recognized that this destructive cycle had developed from man’s manipulation and exploitation of nature over the past century, and we worked to find a way the film could reflect the complexities of these environmental, economical, and cultural issues.
My initial intention to help Monique throughout her grieving process became the biggest challenge to finishing the film. Monique and I struggled to find a balance in walking through her real life experiences while also making a film with her as one of the “main subjects”. It was easy for her to tell me how she felt but then to figure out how we would share those intimate moments of her life with the world was a difficult creative process. But we persevered knowing that her personal life could illuminate a much bigger and urgent story. Together we wrote the narration weaving Monique’s story with the political storylines and in the end found her voice to be strong and poetic.
We strived to make the documentary feel like Monique was telling her story to a new friend, much like when Monique and I were both 21 years old and she took me home to meet her “French Indian” grandmother, Matine. I sat at Grandmaw Matine’s kitchen table as she pulled out old photographs from a wooden box, and in broken English shared stories of her childhood in southeast Louisiana’s wetlands. Grandmaw Matine’s worn hands carried a history not well known and now 10 years later I am honored to help pass on her story. We hope My Louisiana Love will help the Houma people find a seat at bigger decision making tables and give a face to the dire need for a long-‐term balance between industrial development and preservation of indigenous cultures and the environment.
— Sharon Linezo Hong
For more information: http://www.mylouisianalove.com/