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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Discussion Question #1

Hurricane Katrina received a lot of media coverage. What was your experience with and reaction to the disaster? Does your perspective change by viewing the event through the Zeitoun family’s eyes? If so, how?

–When Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans I was 15 years old, and just about to enter the 9th grade. Looking back I remember hearing about the storm and the devastation it caused, it seemed to be the only thing talked about for a very long time. My perspective of the storm has really changed after viewing the event through Zeitoun family’s eyes. I don’t remember hearing anything about the crimes that were caused because of the storm, honestly until recently had no idea that any of that had ever happened. I guess because I was so young I didn’t really pay attention to the news I would just see and hear brief stories about the devastation. It was interesting to hear from someone who actually stayed and saw the storm and its results first hand, allowing me to see more then just the stories told by the media.

Discussion Question #2

Zeitoun has a vivid sense of setting – of place, time, and mood. The city of New Orleans is almost a character itself. Notice this quote describing New Orleans before Katrina hits:”It was this kind of willful, wildly romantic attention to beauty – crumbling and fading beauty needing constant attention – that made this city so unlike any other and such an unparalleled sort of environment for a builder.” (31)After Hurricane Katrina, many wondered if New Orleans should have even been rebuilt, considering the devastation of the storm and New Orleans’ precarious topography. Why is it so important for Zeitoun to rebuild after the storm – especially considering the treatment he received in his adopted city?

–I find it very clear just how much Zeitoun loves the city of New Orleans. Zeitoun’s primary reason for not evacuating with his family prior to the storms arrival was because of his business. He knew that before and after the storm there would be a lot of work to do, and he was loyal to both his company and his clients. Once the devastation of Katrina set in there was obviously no work to do towards his business. Zeitoun had many opportunities to evacuate the city, but decided to stay and help as much as he could. Knowing this I feel like not only was Zeitoun an honorable man, he was also in love with his adopted home. In the last paragraph on page 130 we hear straight from Zeitoun’s mouth how he felt about New Orleans. Zeitoun was talking to his brother Ahmad on the phone. His brother trying to talk him into leaving the city, said, “I really want you to leave. Your family needs you.” Zeitoun replied with, “They need me here more, this is my family too.” I find these words to completely capture the reasoning behind Zeitoun’s decision to rebuild.

Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2009. Print.


Today I received a pleasant phone call from Father John Cisewski (My New Orleans Priest contact). During this phone call we discussed the dates that I will be in New Orleans, he said that he would be in town and was more than willing to help me with my film. I mentioned to him the topics that I had in mind, and he said that they would all be possible to do, but he would also come up with some other topics for me to choose from. He has lived in New Orleans for 40 years, and wanted to put some thought into some more interesting ideas for me. I am open for what he has to say, and look forward to talking to him later this week. After my conversation with Father John, I am even more excited for this trip, and can’t wait to hear about the different contacts and topics he will have for me.

I recently watched the documentary “The True Meaning of Pictures,” by, Jennifer Baichwal. This film tells the true stories of the Appalachian people who were photographed by Photographer Shelby Lee Adams. In this film we hear from Shelby, and his subjects, along with many art critics who discuss his photographs. With this film we see the challenges that Shelby had to go through, most importantly having his work be misinterpreted by many people.

Shelby Lee Adams, a photographer born and raised in Hazard Kentucky, made his living documenting the people of Appalachia. Growing up in a middle class household, Shelby was also shown the darker side of the Appalachia and held a special bond with the people he met from there.

I took a Media Theory and Criticism class last quarter, and discovered a lot about the stereotypes we have as a culture. A life without stereotypes is not realistic. As a filmmaker I need to be aware of the stereotypes out there, and to understand that people will always interpret things differently then I may have intended.

Just as seen in this film, Shelby’s main goal was to bring honor back to Eastern Kentucky. Although these were good intentions many people disagreed with his choice, and felt that he needed to leave these poor people alone. They felt that Adams was misrepresenting his subjects, and because these people were thought to be the stereotypical “hillbillies,” they didn’t have enough sense to realize that these photographs portrayed them in a bad light. This being said there was one critic who made a valid point, she said, that these people just because poor are not stupid, just because illiterate didn’t mean that they didn’t know the emotions a photograph presented. I completely agree with this critic, these people aren’t stupid, they understood and didn’t see these images as something threatening to their way of life, they just saw reality.

I feel that Shelby did the best that he could to show the realities of his subjects, and by making sure that they approved of every single picture was the right thing to do. From watching this film I feel that it is important to tell my subject exactly what I am trying to portray, and to make sure that they feel completely comfortable, and have no questions left unanswered. I have to understand that I will not be able to please everyone, but hope to get my intended vision across to many.


-Day in the life of a Priest in New Orleans.




-questioning faith.

-odd/different/unheard of beliefs.









-grave robbers.

I just recently viewed the documentary, “The American Experience: New Orleans.” I found this film to be both very interesting and educational. I have always thought of New Orleans to be something magical, but I never could pinpoint the exact reason why I felt this way.  That was until I watched this film, and learned about all of the struggles that this city and its people have had to go through. With these difficult challenges we see a huge sense of the cities pride, diversity, and culture, which really impresses me.

New Orleans is a city surrounded by water, with this being said it is both a wonderful and dangerous place to live. In 1718 New Orleans had been founded as the capitol of French Louisiana, and by 1803 was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The people that lived in New Orleans at this time called themselves Creole’s, which were French speaking Roman Catholics. It was not unheard of to see a diversity of races living together in New Orleans; in fact it was very common. Although there were black slaves living during this time, there were also free people of color who lived side by side with the white people.

The free people of color were definitely the most prosperous black community in the United States, they were able to buy and own their own land, along with run their own businesses. In New Orleans there was a strong culture where everyone was accepted no matter the color of ones skin. That sense of unity shows me how amazing this city really was and is.

Due to the fact that New Orleans was the major international port for the south, it wasn’t long before the English speaking Americans arrived. The Americans wanted to get rid of the local culture, by changing the language, and imposing their ways onto the people of New Orleans. One observer said, “This will be an American town, and everything French will in time disappear.”

The Americans seemed to be the first reason for segregation in New Orleans. It all started decades after their arrival. Instead of living together with the French the Americans settled up river from them in a business area called, The American Center and neighborhoods known as the Garden District. Both the French and the Americans had their own separate businesses, churches, theaters, shipping canals, reservoirs and levees. They both also had their own ruling classes of people, both containing the wealthy whites as the upper class.

Because of the business produced by the ports, New Orleans became home to many immigrants from all over the world. By the middle of the 19th century forty percent of New Orleans population was that of foreign born and because of this there was not a dominant culture, but a wide range of diversity making it both a difficult and an unique place to live.

My name is Mataya Yager and I am a film student at the Art Institutes International of Minnesota. I am now entering my senior year at AI and have been given an amazing opportunity to join a group of classmates on a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana.  With this trip I will be creating a short documentary on a topic of my choice. This blog will follow me through every stage of my journey beginning with the 6 weeks of preproduction, 8 days of production, and 5 weeks of postproduction. This trip is going to be a life changing experience and I look forward to sharing it with all of you!