Mama Sue's Garden follows three striking individuals for more then four years as they rebuild their lives post Katrina.
Mama Sue’s Garden is a documentary film about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You might think that there’s nothing really new to say, after so many good films about the largest natural/man-made disaster on U.S. soil of our time. But this film does something no other film has done yet – which is to look at the long haul. Mama Sue's Garden spends four years tracking the convoluted journey of a few striking individuals out of this community-wide trauma. For all of them, it's incredibly difficult, but the film also chronicles the hidden spaces, the not so common longings, the ways in which some family bonds strengthen and the way others grow too taut for comfort, how friends, humor, and creativity play a part.
The film follows three people -- Mama Sue, Lettie Lee and August, aka “World,” who were really kicked hard by Katrina. St. Bernard Parish, where they all live, was ground zero for the storm, and literally nothing was spared. Half its residents never returned.
By the end of three nights on her roof, Mama Sue had lost her house, her dog, Moe, her job, and three front teeth. Her husband Lou’s auto body shop had been flattened. But one of the first things she does after getting running water restored to her home, is scavenge dozens of silk and plastic flowers which she plants in her muddy front yard. 'Nothing’s going to grow. The soil's dead,' Sue says. Her bright plastic flowers are cheery (though they annoy the neighbors who let Sue know that they'd rather things be the the way they were. No fake flowers!)
But that row of unnaturally perky flowers invites the questions -- How do you come home? What does it mean to rebuild? Are you rebuilding a house, or a life, and how on earth do you do that?
But Mama Sue’s return, for the first two years is really rooted in the writing she undertakes, night after chain-smoking night, until she records everything in her life that brought her to this point. You can’t understand her survival, she says, unless you know how she grew up.
The phrase that keeps coming to mind is ‘anatomy of recovery.’ The process is different of course, for everyone, but for everyone, I believe, it is a process and it requires reconfiguring 'identity.' Loaded term, but as Mama Sue said at one point, “I am remaking me now.”
Lettie Lee, a woman in her 70’s – who for more than a year and a half called a FEMA trailer home -- had never hoisted a camera before, but she becomes an ace street reporter, asking some fearless questions of her neighbors.
And “World,” who is also newly unemployed offers a perspective from Guerra Drive, an old African American neighborhood. Searching for the next step, he apprentices himself to a farmer, and is soon digging up the lawn behind his house, and planting ....
So, a year later, two years, and three, where are they? Sometimes, they’re barely scraping by. There are moments when each of the characters looks into the camera and wonders aloud where “ahead” is. But just as often, the film bears witness to bursts of creativity, unflinching honesty and powerful acts of generosity.
Mama Sue’s Garden when it’s completed, will impart an important message about the unpredictable, non-linear nature of recovery from large-scale disaster, reminding us that those who came through it more or less intact are survivors, not victims.
We sincerely thank you for supporting this project. And our gratitude for spreading the word among your friends!
Where it’s at
The film has been largely self-funded, but it has reached the stage when that’s no longer possible. The stage is known as “post-production,” which in real-speak is the sorting and sifting of countless hours of footage (150+ in this case) and the creation of a rough cut, which then gets sifted even finer, into the final cut. And I’m happy to report that we’ve made it to the rough cut stage. The problem is, it’s four hours long. (Even Gone With the Wind wasn’t that long!)
If we make our goal of $10,000, that will enable us to chisel and shape this sprawling cut down to a tight ninety minute version. And then…we’re in the home stretch. Once we’ve achieved ninety minutes, Mama Sues’s Garden is only a few (like three) months from full completion, and release.
Anything raised above our request will be used to produce the final cut, which includes an original score, animation, graphics, a sound mix. Did I forget to mention color correction!? Everyone knows that filmmaking is a complicated, multi-faceted, collaborative affair. These are a few of the reasons why.
Mama Sue's life story, which I found in a manila envelope under my windshield wiper one morning, was part of the inspiration for the making of this film. I retreated to my bedroom with those many hundreds of pages and didn't emerge until I'd read every one. It was -- incredible The story, characters, and the writing were all so powerful.
So I am pledging to contribute 5% of each contribution towards publishing Sue's memoir. It is in rough cut form too, requiring some light editing. We both hope it can be released alongside the film.
We’re asking for whatever you can manage (no donation – really – is too small) We think it will make a difference in how people understand another facet of that storm we call Katrina.
Important Info on Kickstarter's MO
Just a quick word on how this Kickstarter thing works. We only get the money raised if we meet our goal. Anything raised over and above that amount, would be fantastic. It would be put to use in certifying the speedy completion of Mama Sue's Garden. But anything less? Very bad. No funds come to us. Your credit card doesn't get charged, you don't get a copy of the film, or even a button. So casting a wide net of potential "investors" is important. In other words, we really need your help in spreading the word!
Susan and the team
Who is this team? Kathryn Barnier, an experienced and very talented editor who, among other clients, has worked for Bill Moyers, has logged more than two decades in the field, and is committed to Mama Sue’s Garden. Indeed, she has helped bring us to where we are.
Robin Holcomb, the internationally renowned composer, with great sensitivity for regional American themes, has signed on to create an original score for Mama Sue’s Garden. We are thrilled.
For a list of the full crew – it includes the animation artist, native New Orleanian, David Sullivan and graphic designer, Stephen Boss -- please visit the website, www.mamasuesgarden.com
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
Our very real gratitude, a mama sue's garden button and regular updates on our contributors e-newsletter. Please note that for this reward and all the others, contributors from countries outside the U.S. will need to factor in an additional amount of $5 USD to cover customs, and shipping. Thanks for your understanding.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
A copy of the completed DVD, and all of the tangible and intangible rewards listed above, including ... our very real gratitude.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $40 or moreYou selected
A jaunty all cotton t-shirt featuring art work by Mama Sue; plus all of the other tangible and intangible rewards mentioned above, including an autographed copy of the completed DVDEstimated delivery:
Pledge $65 or moreYou selected
An autographed copy of the film's poster PLUS inclusion as a contributor on the film's website (did we mention it? www.mamasuesgarden.com) PLUS a THANK YOU in the film's credits plus all of the other tangible and intangible rewards mentioned above, including an autographed copy of the completed DVDEstimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
TWO of any reward you fancy - one for you and one to share. That would be two t-shirts, or two copies of the poster, two buttons for goodness sakes! And of course all of the tangible and intangible rewards mentioned above including an autographed copy of the completed DVDEstimated delivery:
Pledge $300 or moreYou selected
We will arrange a public or private screening of the film, with the filmmaker present (Willing to travel if transportation and lodging provided.) Your name will be listed under the "Angel" category of contributors. Needless to say, you will also receive all of the tangible and intangible rewards mentioned above including an autographed copy of the completed DVDEstimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
Coffee with Angelina Jolie (ha ha! That was a joke) But, next best thing: coffee with the director before or after a private or public screening of the film, or if a long cup of coffee at a charming cafe isn't workable, we can each pull up a chair to our respective SKYPE stations, and chat about any topic of your choice, preferably something to do with the film; And you will receive PROMINENT mention in the film's credits, as well as all of the tangible and intangible rewards mentioned above including an autographed copy of the completed DVDEstimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
You'd be in on the hair-pulling, decision making process! What I mean is, we would send you the rough cut just before we're ready to solicit public opinion and sincerely invite your feedback. PLUS all of the other rewards mentioned above, including...at least one copy of the completed DVD. But most of all you'd get a hug, real or virtual, to keep forever.Estimated delivery:
- (40 days)