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New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward

I got a call a couple weeks ago from Tavis Smiley’s people. They wanted me to promote a television show on my blog. I’ve heard about this as the latest marketing trend, and I’m not sure what to think of it. On the one hand, I like to preserve this space as a place to write whatever’s on my mind, and I don’t want to serve as a tool for someone else’s marketing strategy. On the other hand, this television series is something I’d like to promote. So, at least this once, I’m playing along.

Here’s the e-mail follow-up they sent me. This sounds like good television, and I’d encourage my friends around the country to check it out tonight, and each night this week.

My name is Brian Steffen. I am currently working for KCET in Los Angeles and the television show “Tavis Smiley” that airs nationally every week night on Public Television. Currently in production is a five part series in which Tavis Smiley is joining forces with director Jonathan Demme to present series of short films on post-Katrina New Orleans called “Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward.” The five films examine the efforts of a group of New Orleanians who braved unimaginable adversity after the floods and in an attempt to reclaim their lives-primarily in the Lower 9th Ward. The residents presented in the documentary include teachers, ministers, a retired chef, volunteer workers, the owner of the legendary “Mother-In-Law Lounge,” librarians and other workers from all walks of life. “Right to Return” will air nightly for a week, beginning Monday, May 28th on the “Tavis Smiley” late-night program on over 200 PBS affiliates nationwide.

“This American story of lives lost, souls shattered and uncommon courage must be told, even though the waters have subsided,” stated Tavis Smiley. “I’m pleased and honored to have the opportunity alongside an iconic director like Jonathan Demme to tell that story.”

“This is an extremely personal project for me,” stated Jonathan Demme. “We started filming four months after the floods. I felt drawn, as an American film maker, to contribute somehow to the audio-visual record of what these people were going through in their heroic efforts to jump start their lives in the face of this epic, tragic event. I wanted to be a part of getting these stories out, and I am so thrilled and proud to be doing so with Tavis Smiley.” Jonathan Demme added, “It’s really wonderful that Tavis Smiley is providing a window into the lives of these amazing people — the spirituality, courage, imagination, tenacity, and humor that fuels their commitment to restore their homes is truly inspiring and moving to me.”

Each night, Jonathan Demme will join Tavis Smiley on location to introduce the people featured in each episode. The main individuals profiled will have the opportunity to talk about their current situation at the end of each program.

Everyone here at KCET and “Tavis Smiley” would appreciate your help in letting people know that the program is going to be aired. We would like to have a post on your blog about the program. We believe with your help more people will be able to see and hear these amazing individuals.

Read the full copy of the press release.

Published inNew OrleansRadio & TV


  1. Sam Lasis Sam Lasis

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve got the programs set up to record. I can’t get enough decent New Orleans information out in this part of the country.

  2. mike mike

    Tavis is from Kokomo and attended IU as an undergrad from around 1984 to around 1987. I believe he was at the Bloomington campus.

  3. rickngentily rickngentily

    anything that can help ms. k-doe is cool by me. she kept ernie in my life for 10 to 15 years more than he should have been.

  4. thanks! my hubby DVR’d this weeks episodes specifically because of the info you posted Bart.. much appreciated (got to see last nights eppie already) I’m glad there was a May 2007 update included.

    we’re in Downtown LA which is having a urban renewal of some kind as well, but mainly a lot of rebuilding and police/ community interaction.. it still has a way to go (we don’t have a grocery store yet). Still keeping up with New Orleans’ challenges from out here on the West Coast.

  5. Marion Marion

    Bart you might consider putting your stuff on the recovery out in this vein. You home drop me a line.

  6. Joe Joe

    I thought of you when I saw an episode of this. I thought it was reasonably well done.

    We remember. Our parish is still praying for New Orleans every week.

  7. Franky Franky

    I’m tired of everything being about the Ninth Ward. What about the rest of the city that flooded? What about St. Bernard, where the entire parish was destroyed? The African American community has taken this tragedy and turned it into a black thing. It’s as if only black areas flooded. Well I have a news flash for America: More than just the Lower Nine flooded. But you’d never know it from the likes of Jonathan Demme. Lakeview, Gentilly, Broadmoor, Chalmette and Mid-City may as well be invisible. Those areas are just not black enough or politically correct enough to merit a mention by the left wing types in Hollywood.

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