Studio: Imagine Entertainment
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 42 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo
Review Date: February 22, 2009
*Note: Hurricane on the Bayou was originally created for exhibition in IMAX theaters
The Show - out of
The large format IMAX films, seen in IMAX theatres are incredible experiences. Short films that educate, entertain and enthrall are the mainstay of these oversized screens and, while IMAX has grown itself over the years, profiling big blockbuster films, like The Dark Knight, its true source of constant marvel is short film documentaries. Filmmaking Company MacGillivray-Freeman has been creating documentary style films that capture imagination with a grand visual boldness and lushly filmed grandeur for decades. The films created have explored and educated on the magnificence of the planet, from the depths of the sea, to the heights of flight. The library includes the first film of theirs, To Fly!, through incredible and at times Oscar nominated and winning shorts such as The Living Sea, Dolphins and Everest. The incredible talents of the MacGillivray-Freeman company, independently run out of Laguna Beach, CA, have even been used in major motion pictures, notably Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining for the sweeping aerial shots.
Hurricane on the Bayou is a short film with a mission: to educate the public on the importance of the Louisiana wetlands, using comparisons of historical ordinance surveys and the terrible effects of Hurricane Katrina to make its point. It begins three months before Hurricane Katrina unleashed its devastation and we are introduced to the characters we follow through the 42 minutes and to the lush beauty of the wetlands and New Orleans’ distinct character. We meet Amanda Shaw, a young 14 year old gifted musician/Cajun Fiddler who, along with Cajun Blue’s musician Tab Benoit is working to help preserve the wetlands. We are with them as they explore the natural habitats of native alligators; as they play blues and jazz music and then as they experience the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
This large screen format short film is set to the sorrowful sounds of the Bayou blues and gospel and, while is shares and an environmentally concerned message, it sews throughout its running time a healthy dose of music from the region, enriching the experience.
But first and foremost, the message is of protecting the wetlands for its vital importance to the eco-system. It isn’t veiled or subtle, but a direct indictment of man’s interference with ‘mother nature’. It is a lesson in Hurricane’s and what fuels them and how the loss of so much of the wetlands means there is less and less that will take the air out of a Hurricanes strength; it dubs the wetlands ‘natures Hurricane speed bump’. This film captures the undeniable beauty of the region, but when it begins tracing the path of Katrina – nature’s ferocity is on display and the results are haunting.
Katrina, at its largest was 200 miles wide. It lost a little power as it traveled over Florida, but grew again in strength as it entered the Gulf of Mexico, where the waters were warmer than normal, fueling the Hurricane to become more powerful than normal. The film becomes a narrative of Katrina’s impact – like a disaster film but worse since the horrific aftermath of that devastating storm are real. The shots over the ravaged New Orleans landscape are remarkable, the carnage, terrible and the emotional toll, deep.
With narration by Meryl Streep, along with narration from those we are following in the film, Hurricane on the Bayou is a little different than other MacGillivray-Freeman films. It doesn’t so much rely on visual beauty, though that is still present, but uses a mix of news footage, computer generated image recreations and the emotional power of the devastation to reach its audience. It doesn’t beat you over the head with science nor linger on the political ripples that still emanate from the Katrina disaster – but remains focused on the few characters we meet, their lives, their mission and their music. And, as such, is a success.
Hurricane on the Bayou is presented on Blu-Ray with a 1080p High Definition transfer and shown here with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The underwater shots in the wetland are extraordinarily sharp and very natural. Details are fine and natural film grain gives a more true film like look to this release. The colors are particularly rich, especially the deep greens and the rich sunsets. The hi-def image is very good, with plenty of detail and is without issues.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is excellent. The haunting music fills the surrounds and the subwoofer is given a lot of work to do. This is a clean, precise audio track that delivers suitably in each of the speakers. The center channel containing the narration and other dialogue is issue free, the front speakers carry a lot of the storm sounds and great music, but it is the surrounds that really push this track over the top and into the great category.
The Making of – (31:43) – A look at the creation of this film, which began in August 2003 and how the Hurricane Katrina event changed the story – and the importance of it – from what was originally planned. Featuring plenty of unused footage – this serves as an extension of the film and a welcome one and is the perfect companion to the main feature.
Film Trivia Quiz – A short quiz asking questions about things the film covered that is smoothly handled.
About the Musicians – Fact sheets with information about the musicians.
About Audubon Nature Institute – A text page about the institute which helped bring this feature to the big(gest) screen.
About Alligator Stuff – 2 pages of text about alligators.
Play MacGillivray-Freeman Films - (7:36)– A short retrospective on their film library.
About Greg MacGillivray – Another fact sheet with biographical information.
Trailers – Trailers for 12 MacGillivray-Freeman films in High Definition with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound.
Dynamic Connection – Link to e-enabled features.
MacGillavry-Freeman productions never seem to fail with breathtaking images, involving narratives and an ability to inspire a sense of awe. Hurricane on the Bayou is more direct with its message and is a unique flavor in the big-screen format film library. Featuring music from music legends Fats Domino, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Chubby Carrier (Amanda’s Mentor) and Marva Wright, – this film, originally created for exhibition in IMAX theaters, holds up very well for showing in your home theater on Blu-Ray.