Posted 24 May 2010
A Village Called Versailles is the story of a little-known, tightly knit community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When the storm devastated New Orleans in August 2005, Versailles residents rebuilt their neighborhood faster than any other damaged neighborhood in the city, only to find themselves threatened by a new toxic landfill slated to open just two miles away. Forced out of Vietnam by the war 30 years ago, many residents felt their homes were being taken away from them once again.
More than three decades ago, Vietnamese refugees began to settle in Versailles, a then-isolated community in eastern New Orleans. By the early 2000s, this working-class enclave was home to 8,000 residents. But although the community had accomplished material successes, it remained divided between older immigrants and American-born youth. Many Versailles residents felt like perpetual outsiders in greater New Orleans, ignored by the local government.
By January 2006, more than half of the neighborhood has been rebuilt, financed by friends and family, with no help from FEMA. Community leaders put together an ambitious redevelopment plan for Versailles, including its own senior housing, a cultural center, and a community farm and market. But New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin exercised his emergency power to open Chef Menteur Landfill mere miles from Versailles for toxic debris disposal from Katrina without getting an environmental impact study first.
Outraged, Versailles fought back. Residents protested at City Hall and crowded public hearings by the hundreds, making the Vietnamese communitys presence felt in New Orleans for the first time. As elders and youth fought side by side chanting in English and Vietnamese Versailles finally won a political voice.
A community discussion will be held after the screening. For more information, call AETN at 800-662-2386, or visit www.aetn.org/engage.
A Village Called Versailles will air Sunday, May 30, at 11 p.m. on AETN.
Community Cinema, a free monthly screening series engaging communities through film produced by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), features monthly screenings followed by panel discussions with leading organizations, local communities and special guest speakers. The program is designed to help people learn about and get involved in the social issues raised in the documentaries.
Anyone attending the screening is invited to stay for a free concert with Damn Bullets at 7:30 p.m. The concert will be taped for a future episode of AETN Presents: On the Front Row. Critically lauded roots-rock band Damn Bullets includes Joe Sundell, DJ Bennett and Graeme Higgins who play a blend of early rock and roll, ragtime blues, folk, bluegrass and country. Damn Bullets bring both classical training and folk sensibilities together with their three-part harmonies.
The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) is Arkansass statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. For more information, visit www.aetn.org, or follow the AETN blog at www.aetn.org/engage. AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), and KETZ (El Dorado).