For a city with such a lush cinematic backdrop, films set in New Orleans often suffer from a certain lack of authenticity. Whether it’s an obligatory voodoo shop visit, a Mardi Gras Parade around every corner, or Dennis Quaid’s accent in The Big Easy, Hollywood’s interpretation of the Crescent City often leaves local eyes rolling.
Not so with Flood Streets, an almost entirely home-grown feature film that was written, shot and edited in the Bywater, and will make its New Orleans Film Fest premiere Sunday evening at 4:45 at the Prytania Theater.
Based on In the Land of What Now, a book of short stories written by Helen Kreiger (half of the husband and wife team behind the film), Flood Streets “follows a group of creative malcontents as they struggle to find love, money and marijuana in the surreal streets of post-Katrina New Orleans,” according to a press kit provided by Joseph Meissner (the other half).
The entire film crew was local, as were all but 42 of the actors. Friends from the neighborhood offered shooting locations, artwork and labor, all wanting “to be a part of a project that captured the complexity of the city’s culture,” according to the press release.
The film’s biggest names, actor and comedian Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, This is Spinal Tap) and songwriter Becky Stark (The Decemberists, Lavender Diamond) signed onto the project because they loved the script. Shearer said it was a project that “finally got it right about New Orleans.”
Flood Streets also aims to get the city’s diverse soundtrack right. “New Orleans has always been a hotbed of musical inspiration, so much so that we’ve become a victim of our own success,” according to the press kit. “It’s easy for people to think of New Orleans as a kind of museum to jazz or funk, but in fact, the music scene in New Orleans is constantly evolving with each young musician who makes the existing musical forms his own.”
The film features the new sounds of New Orleans music, including bands like The Zydepunks, the Panorama Jazz Band, Meschiya Lake, Clint Maedgen and the Preservation Hall Band, Loren Murrell, and Debauche.
The genesis of Flood Streets began during the six-week mandatory evacuation that followed Hurricane Katrina. Forced from the home and two businesses they owned in New Orleans, Kreiger and Meissner “had time to contemplate how they might rebuild their lives from scratch if there was nothing left to come home to. Despite the fear and uncertainty, here was an opportunity to start from scratch and realize dreams both had deferred. For Krieger it was writing and for Meissner it was acting and directing, so they decided to join forces to tell the story unfolding around them of New Orleans’ strange recovery.”
After returning to New Orleans and making the necessary repairs to their house, they then sold the home, moved into the back of Meissner’s martial arts school, and used the proceeds to fund Flood Streets.
So far, it appears the couple’s risk taking is paying off with lots of positive reviews from critics who’ve already seen the film at festivals around the country.
Louis B. Parks gave it three out of four stars in his review in the Houston Chronicle, calling it “upbeat, amusing…Well-done and involving. There’s a big, raucous New Orleans soundtrack.” Film Threat called it “a groovy cloud of dramatic tension… It resonates with power,” and Martin Duran of The Village News called it “a heartfelt slice-of-life celluloid treasure.”
For more information on Flood Streets, visit their Facebook page at http://facebook.com/floodstreets.
Journalist and filmmaker Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.