A Village called Versailles (2009)
directed by S. Leo Chiang
I finally had an opportunity to watch this documentary and it’s certainly an educational feature covering perhaps lesser known events related to hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans in August 2005. Certainly I wasn’t aware of the large Vietnamese population living New Orleans East and the challenges they faced. The film says they are perhaps the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. Initially settled by Vietnamese refugees in 1975 with many of them having fled North Vietnam to South Vietnam in 1957 and then having fled again to New Orleans due to the Vietnam war. Hurricane Katrina for many of them is the third time that they have been forced to relocate.
The documentary shows not only the physical destruction left behind but also the emotional destruction that comes from seeing all their homes and possessions wiped out which they worked for decades to attain. From this crisis despite being told to “look and leave” the Vietnamese stay and gradually rebuild their homes and buildings. However another challenge arises when the mayor has a landfill site constructed next to a river upstream of New Orleans East which would surely contaminate the water that flows into the area and the rest of New Orleans. Having kept quiet and mostly secluded for decades the Vietnamese community, both the old people and younger Vietnamese Americans rally to have the landfill shut down.
There isn’t anything remarkable about the way the documentary is filmed but it’s straightforward and to the point. The thoughts of both Vietnamese and Non-Vietnamese community leaders are shown in the documentary along with live footage of the events as they unfolded. The story is an inspiration and a historical record that those who pride themselves on knowing more than just general details would benefit from watching.
The version I watched is the 67 minute feature. The DVD which can be purchased also includes a shorter broadcast version.