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Desert Bayou (2007) - Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


Desert Bayou (2007) - Movie Review

Katrina Victims Evacuated to Utah

(c) Taproot Productions

The Bottom Line

How would you cope with being unexpectedly uprooted from your home, losing all of your belongings and having to move to a completely unfamiliar environment? In Desert Bayou, filmmaker Alex LeMay tells the story of African Americans who were airlifted--without their knowledge--from New Orleans and deposited in a disused military base in the desert, 45 miles from Salt Lake City. There they began the struggle to rebuild their lives and find new homes post-Katrina.
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  • An unique perspective on aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
  • A compelling report about how African Americans manage to resettle in a primarily white community.


  • None worth mentioning.


  • Showing how Katrina victims were evacuated--without their consent--to a location far away and completely different from home.
  • Focuses on how African American victims of Katrina were forced to endure prisoner-of-war-like conditions in Utah.
  • Up close and personal storytelling as Katrina victims rebuild their lives--if not their property.
  • Disturbing evidence of the ongoing racial bias that exists subtly in the US--until an incident like Katrina makes it overt.

Guide Review - Desert Bayou (2007) - Movie Review

In the wake of Katrina, Curtis Pleasant and Clifford Andrews, both lifelong residents of New Orleans, were among 600 African American who were airlifted--without their prior knowledge or consent--from New Orleans to an abandoned military base in the Utah desert.

They had lost everything and now, still in a state of shock and angst, they were forced to cope with their unexpected placement in an environment very different from the one they'd left--including the fact that Utah is one of the whitest states in the nation.

When they arrived, they were humiliated by being subjected to three background checks for criminal activity, and had to abide by an enforced curfew. Indeed, there was much rumbling among Utah residents that the evacuees would import crime to their new home state, and false reports alleging their criminality were released to the media.

The film sheds light on overt racial bias that effects the families, adding to their difficulties in finding homes and jobs. Rocky Anderson, mayor of Salt Lake City, even expresses indignation that the African American evacuees were treated so badly upon their arrival in Utah.

Nevertheless, the evacuees persevere, managing to establish new lives for themselves and their families--but not without intense struggle that seems inhumane, especially after their harrowing experiences with Katrina.

LeMay follows Pleasant and Andrews on a short but painful journey back to New Orleans, where they sadly see what has become of their former homes. Other than that sequence, in which we see boarded us houses and submerged cars, the film doesn't present many images of the damage done by Katrina. Instead, the focus remains primarily on what the future holds in store for the Pleasant and Andrews families, and the other evacuees--many of whom now intend to stay in Utah permanently.

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