UA Documentary Depicts Unique Alabama Community

The fictional home of the title character in the movie Forest Gump, in reality Bayou La Batre is one of the small communities in south Mobile County that the Chamber of Commerce calls “The Seafood Capital of Alabama.” It’s a place that makes a distinct impression. Extraordinary natural beauty surrounding plain and simple, work-worn buildings, and people of the same description who are also thoroughly authentic and instinctively generous.

Since the Revolutionary War this fishing village has been a point of entry for waves of immigrants in search of opportunity. But when Hurricane Katrina displaced 2000 of the town’s 2300 residents in 2005 only to be followed by the gulf oil spill and the recession, they were only the latest in a century of threats to its survival.

In the Path of the Storms, a documentary from the University of Alabama Center for Public Television & Radio, is the portrait of a unique culture struggling to endure, just as its primary characters each try to do the same.

  • Shrimper Henry Alexander and seafood shop owner Rodney Lyons have roots in the seafood industry generations deep. They reflect on the values of the culture and the new pressures that threaten it.
  • Nancy McCall whose ancestors came to escape life as sharecroppers in Mississippi. Like their French Canadian and Eastern European neighbors, African Americans came in search of self determination.
  • Heang Chhun a Cambodian refugee whose wife and child were killed as they fled the Communist Khmer Rouge has now built a new life in Bayou La Batre and founded a self help group for his fellow countrymen.
  • Regina Benjamin focused her medical practice on the underinsured. After Katrina destroyed her clinic she mortgaged her home to rebuild it while buying medication for refuges out of her own pocket.

The one hour film is an adaptation of a book of the same name written by noted southern culture journalist Frye Gaillard working with Peggy Denniston and photographer Sheila Hagler who also live in the community. All three collaborated in the production of the documentary. It was directed and edited by Mike Letcher with videography by Preston Sullivan. The film was funded in part by grants from the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities at Auburn University.

The documentary is available on DVD and orders may be placed by calling 1-800-463-8825, Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm.

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