David M. Brasseaux has released a 31-minute documentary film, Looking for Trouble.  It is about violence in Cajun communities in the first half of the twentieth century.  Two areas come in for special attention:  Marais Bouleur (a “marais” is a swamp) and Pointe Noire (Black Point), in Acadia Parish.  Cajuns are often seen as exuberant and happy-go-lucky, but, like everyone else, they sometimes have a dark side.  This is the first time I’ve seen this issue discussed anywhere.  It’s worth watching and it’s free to view.

A champion of life at the margins and other oddities, Les Blank died on Monday, April 8, 2013.  Besides his films on garlic, beer and gap-toothed women, Blank made films about south Louisiana folklife.  His film Dry Wood is available online.  Blank attended Tulane University in New Orleans, perhaps where he learned about Cajun and Creole music.  In his later years he resided in California.  I spoke to him at the library convention booth where he was selling his films.  When I said I enjoyed his films, he asked “Which ones?”

Dry Wood (1973) is about Creole music and includes Alphonse “Bois Sec” (“Dry Wood”) Ardoin and Canray Fontenot.  J’ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance (1989) covers the history of Cajun, Creole and zydeco music.  (Soundtrack CDs  volume 1 and volume 2 with listening online!) With involvement by Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records.   Marc and Ann Savoy are the subjects of Marc & Ann (1991).  Cajuns in general are the subject of Spend It All (1971) with Nathan Abshire and the Balfa Brothers.   Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking (1990) is about cooking.

An author named Father Ron has posted a short article on the WWOZ-FM web site on Cajun and zydeco music used in movies.  He lists the 1987 The Big Easy, known locally for Dennis Quaid’s bizarre New Orleans crossed with Cajun accent.   Of course Glen Pitre’s Belizaire the Cajun is on the list.   See what else you can thank of!

Raised in Lafayette, La, filmmaker Allen Clements now lives in Pennsylvania.  Clements wants to make a film about Cajuns from the Cajun perspective.  The title is “We Are Cajun” and it’s filming in and around Acadiana.  He’s asking Cajuns what it means to be a Cajun and filming their responses.  Here’s a story from KATC-TV in Lafayette with mostly stock footage and a telephone interview with Clements.   And he’s using Kickstarter to raise funds for production, with a 5 minute film clip.   The deadline to contribute is 8:24 am CT Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012.   Clements says he’ll hire Cajuns to make the film.  There is a web site at http://wearecajun.com, but it’s redirecting back to the Kickstarter site.  Contribution levels start at US$1 and go to US$6500, with many Merci gifts along the way.   No funds go to the producer if the goal of $30,000 is not met, so contribute now!

A film about Gulf Coast music produced by the Lafayette, LA-based Acadiana Center for the Arts premieres Nov. 25 at 7:30 pm and 27 at 4:30 pm, 2011 at the Center.  It includes D. L. Menard and Jeffrey Broussard as well as Sonny Landreth, Allen Toussaint with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Irma Thomas.  Each showing is preceded by a reception, and a dance follows.  Telephone 337-255-5689 for more information.

Well, that’s the plotline of a new film, Zombex.  The cast includes Malcom McDowell, Corey Feldman, and Kinky Friedman!  Unfortunately, the main character’s name is “Charlie Thibideaux.” Alas, can’t anyone spell Thibodeaux?  This site includes an interview and two photos.  Heels in the swamp?  Oh, yeah – no.  At least it should be an excuse to bring zydeco music to a larger public.  That is, if they use real zydeco.  I’m keeping an open mind.

Film directory, writer and producer Glen Pitre will appear on the Lâche Pas show on WWOZ-FM this Sunday, April 3rd.  The show starts at noon Central time (U.S.) and runs for two hours.  Pitre is the director of Belizaire the Cajun, the 1986 independent film about a Cajun traiteur (healer) and his struggle against an Anglo vigilante force.  The film stars Armand Assante as Belizaire, and includes Gail Youngs, and Robert Duval.

Glen Pitre’s film Belizaire the Cajun is in limited rerelease for its twenty-fifth anniversary.   Set in 1859, it’s the story of a Cajun in love with the wife of another man, and it’s the story of vigilantism directed against Cajuns in south Louisiana.   The soundtrack is played primarily by Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, using mostly traditional tunes.  Pitre is both writer and director on this story of the western frontier.  The film is profiled in Americanpress.com.   Screenings are set for both Lafayette and Chalmette (April 1-7).  See it on the big screen while you can!

Watch the free, streaming film Dance for a Chicken : The Cajun Mardi Gras, free from FolkStreams.   It’s Mardi Gras time and this film will give you an excellent introduction to Mardi Gras as it is celebrated among the Cajuns in the country.  It runs almost an hour, 55:08.  Traditionally, Cajun Mardi Gras consists of a flock of costumed men on horseback, in various states of inebriation.  Held on Mardi Gras day, they ride from house to house asking for charity.  That means some food; all of which is taken at the end of the day to one site and used to cook a communal feast.  It might be a sack of rice, a bushel of yams, or, as we see here, a live chicken.  The sport is in having the riders chase the chicken around someone’s yard to catch it.  The whole thing is called a courir, or a run.  The costumes are often strips of rags, looking like fringe, and a conical hat, also covered with cloth strips.  The hat is called a capuchon.  And masks are traditionally screen wire formed over the face and covered with paint and accessories, like a big nose, lips and tongue.   Women are more involved in the courir these days.  And some are held before Mardi Gras Day,  such as Iota’s on the Saturday before.

Dateline London, Feb. 11, 2010:  Production has been approved for a new U.K. film, Dirt Road to Lafayette.  You read it right, a bunch of Europeans are making a film set in south Louisiana.  The director is Kenneth “Kenny” Glenaan, who has done mostly TV in the UK.  (The Hollywood Reporter article incorrectly identifies him as “Glenann.”)    Glenaan won a UK BAFTA award (comparable to an Oscar) for his 2008 film “Summer,” so maybe this one won’t be too schlocky.  Plot is about a Scottish father and son who journey to Lafayette following a death in the family, where musician son encounters zydeco.  Sounds like 2003 Schultze Gets the Blues, a Germany film about a retired miner who makes a mythical journey to zydeco country, winding up at New Orleans’ Rock ‘N’ Bowl!

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