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67 minutes, 2007,  closed captioned
Executive Producers: Wynton Marsalis & Stanley Nelson
Producers: Lucie Faulknor, Dawn Logsdon & Lolis Eric Elie
Director: Dawn Logsdon; Writer: Lolis Eric Elie
Composer: Derrick Hodge
DISCONTINUED for more information or to purchase Faubuourg Treme, please contact Serendipity Films

Winner of the Peter C. Rollins Award for Best Documentary, Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association

Long ago during slavery, Faubourg Treme was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South and a hotbed of political ferment. Here black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor co-habitated, collaborated, and clashed to create much of what defines New Orleans culture up to the present day. In so many ways its story reflects the tortuous path taken by African American history over the centuries.

Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans was largely shot before the Katrina tragedy but edited afterward, giving the film both a celebratory and elegiac tone. It is a film of such effortless intimacy, subtle glances and authentic details that only two native New Orleanians could have made it.

Our guide through the film, three centuries of black history and the fascinating neighborhood of Faubourg Treme is New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie (now a writer for David Simon's new HBO TV series, Treme) who decided that rather than abandon his heritage after Hurricane Katrina he would invest in it by rehabilitating an old house in the Treme district.

His 75 year-old contractor, Irving Trevigne, whose family has been in the construction business there for over 200 years, becomes a symbol of the neighborhood’s continuity and resourcefulness; Irving Trevigne represents a man who, unlike many Americans, is deeply rooted in his community and its traditions.

Louisiana Poet Laureate Brenda Marie Osbey and noted historians John Hope Franklin and Eric Foner explain on the DVD what made Treme different, and such a fertile ground for African American life. New Orleans was a French and Spanish city before it was incorporated into the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Latin and urban attitudes towards slavery tended to be more relaxed than in the plantation South; slaves were allowed to walk freely through the city, to work for themselves and hence often to buy their freedom. New Orleans had the largest number of free people of color in the South, a dangerous anomaly in a slave society.

As the city outgrew its walls, a new district, Faubourg (suburb in French) Treme was constructed, a mixed neighborhood, a majority of whose residents were free people of color. The district developed its own institutions, for example, St. Augustine’s Church, the oldest predominantly black Catholic parish in the country. The district grew up around Congo Square where African American commerce flourished and a unique Creole culture emerged. Even today when Treme’s children go ‘second lining’ behind one of the city’s storied brass bands, their dances immediately reveal their African origins.

A century before the Harlem Renaissance and the modern Civil Rights Movement, Treme was a center of black cultural and political ferment. In 1862, after Northern troops captured the city, Paul Trevigne, an ancestor of Irving, edited the oldest black-owned daily newspaper in the U.S., The Tribune, which became an eloquent advocate for African Americans’ civil rights. Before the 14th,15th and 16th Amendments, it demanded the right to enlist in the Union army, to vote and to be subject to equal treatment under the law. During the heady days of Reconstruction, black New Orleanians employed sit-down strikes to integrate the city's streetcars; it became the only city in the South with desegregated schools. At one point, more than half the state legislators were African Americans, as well as the governor.

With the withdrawal of Federal troops in 1877, however, white supremacists rapidly rolled back black gains. Separate and unequal schools were re-established and 99% of black citizens were purged from the voting rolls; anyone who protested was likely to be lynched by the Ku Klux Klan. As a last stand in 1892, a ‘Citizens Committee’ deliberately challenged a law resegregating all public transportation, the infamous Plessy vs. Ferguson case. There the Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional, legalizing 60 years of American-style apartheid.

The black population was devastated but precisely during this dark period, a new kind of music was born in Faubourg Treme: jazz. Legendary jazz great and New Orleans native, Wynton Marsalis observes on the DVD that this music gave African Americans, excluded once again from mainstream American society, a free cultural space to voice their grief and hopes. The film pulsates with the resilient spirit of the residents of this quintessential New Orleans neighborhood, which has swept the world as America’s most lasting contribution to music.

Treme was a hotbed of New Orleans’ civil rights struggles in the ‘50s and ‘60s but with its success prosperous residents began to move out. The familiar pattern of inner city urban decay set in poverty, crime, drugs. Urban re-development rammed an interstate highway through the business center of the neighborhood and historic homes were replaced by demoralizing segregated housing projects. Faubourg Treme even lost its name; now it was simply known as the Sixth Ward.

Then in late August, 2005, Katrina hit. The filmmakers revisited Treme to survey the destruction and find out what had happened to the characters they had met during the film. The indifferent, incompetent federal response to the catastrophe left many residents angry and discouraged; once again, as with slavery and Jim Crow, America seemed to have rejected its African American residents. Some, like Lolis Eric Elie, returned and rebuilt. But Irving Trevigne, his life’s work in ruins, moved to Vermont where he died the next year. St. Augustine’s church was given 18 months to recover its congregation or close.

A deeply moved but defiant Brenda Marie Osbey concludes Faubourg Treme: “This catastrophe is not greater than we as a people. Everywhere we go we must take with us the spirit of this city, the spirit of its heroes and the will to live and fight again.”

Faubourg Treme does not just commemorate, it reminds us that American society still confronts the same battles that the residents of Treme have waged through two centuries - demands for economic justice, voting rights, equal education, decent public services, in short, full citizenship for African Americans.

Chapter Listing
1. Intro - Spirit of Treme
2. Resistance: Slavery & Free Black People
3. First Black Daily in the US
4. Reconstruction: From Promise to Defeat
5. Plessy Court Case
6. Jazz is Born
7. Urban Renewal and Displacement
8. Katrina and Its Aftermath

With 20 years of experience in arts administration, Lucie Faulknor has worked with and produced several projects such as Ireland’s Women in Film and Video film festival, and San Francisco’s Artists Up-Close series.

Dawn Logsdon was an acclaimed editor in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years until she returned to her New Orleans hometown in 1999 to begin work on her first feature-length directing debut. She has previously edited The Weather Underground and The Castro: Hidden Neighborhoods of San Francisco, and has directed and produced several short documentaries.

Lolis Eric Elie is a writer and filmmaker based in New Orleans who is a respected food and culture critic, having published several anthologies on Southern food as well as a thrice-weekly column in the New Orleans' Times-Picayune for 14 years. He is currently writing for the HBO series, Treme.

Faubourg Treme is a co-production of Serendipity Films, LLC, Independent Television Service (ITVS), WYES TV12 New Orleans, Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) and National Black Programming Consortium (NPBC). Major funding for this program was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, State of Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, The Ford Foundation, Southern Humanities Media Fund, Open Society Institute, LEH & others. For a complete list please go to www.tremedoc.com

The Faubourg Treme filmmakers are available for speaking engagements. Please visit www.tremedoc.com for contact information.
"This film is a modern history book that perfectly captures the spirit and culture of Tremé - one of New Orleans' great neighborhoods."
Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League
"A stunning and powerful historical experience...Celebrates how black New Orleans, in the face of white hostility, managed to carve out a unique and expressive culture and history that would enrich America and the world."
Leon Litwack, President, Southern Historical Association; Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley
"A powerful piece of work on our beloved New Orleans! Don't miss it!"
Cornel West, Princeton University
"Flat out brilliant...This new documentary captures the real New Orleans on film. Richer and far more nuanced than Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke."
The New Orleans Tribune
"Our jazz idiom, the Creole tradition of political dissent, the craftsmanship behind our vernacular architecture-all had roots in Faubourg Tremé. Anyone still wondering what it might mean to lose New Orleans should see this powerful and poignant documentary film."
Lawrence N. Powell, Tulane University
"The film uses a richly textured mix of archival images, documents and historical footage to define a history of community resilience in the face of repeated challenges and threats. New Orleans gets short shrift in most discussions of civil rights and other aspects of historical and contemporary race relations, so this DVD fills an important gap and the jury urges its use in the classroom."
Society for Visual Anthropology
"A brilliant documentary fim that should be seen by every man, woman and child who desires to understand the world we live in and, ultimately, how to change it for all. It is a multi-use, exceedingly accessible, and deeply moving video with a sociological imagination. Students of sociology will be challenged to think more comprehensively and critically than they ever have regarding the intricate links between race and class, history and biography, and the future of people and their communities."
David L. Brunsma, Teaching Sociology

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