February 26, 2008 — Writer/director Lolis Eric Elie, who for the last five years has chronicled the heartbeat of New Orleans' neighborhoods thrice weekly in his award-winning metro column for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, comes to the University of Virginia for two events: the Virginia Film Society sneak preview screening of his feature-length film, "Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans," and a talk, "After the Storm: Correcting the Record on Katrina," sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Institute.
"Faubourg Tremé" will be screened on Monday, March 10, at 7 p.m. at Vinegar Hill Theater. The film's premise is simple. A young writer, Lolis Eric Elie, moves back home to New Orleans and into the black neighborhood, the Faubourg Tremé. Elie likes the old architecture and music, but soon finds that the history of this place is the real story. Free blacks pushed for civil rights in the 1800s when most African-Africans were still enslaved. They flourished creatively in poetry as well as in music. In the middle of the Civil War, radical black New Orleanians sent a delegation to meet with Abraham Lincoln to demand voting rights.
"As the son of a New Orleans 20th-century civil rights leader, Elie brings an insightful and rare perspective to the retelling of his community's history," said Richard Herskowitz, artistic director of the Virginia Film Festival.
Inspired by the legacy of earlier Tremé writers, the author and journalist seeks to understand the spirit of the past through the literary, musical and architectural artifacts left behind. The result is a fresh and innovative approach to historical documentary storytelling. There are the famous historians to elucidate the facts, but mostly, what is heard and seen is the music, the dance, the poetry and the voices of contemporary residents whose lives reflect the history and culture of this place.
The second event, "After the Storm: Correcting the Record on Katrina" — scheduled for Tuesday, March 11, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Bryan Hall, room 229 — will be moderated by Deborah McDowell, U.Va. professor of English and African-American studies.
In addition to receiving his master's in journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Elie also earned a master's in creative writing from the University of Virginia. While on Grounds, he will meet with creative writing students.
Writer and retired English professor George Garrett, one of Elie's teachers at U.Va., called him "one of the best and brightest of our fiction-writing students." He said, "Lolis Elie wrote first-rate stories, as he has continued to do since then. He is now, of course, best known for his regular column in the Times-Picayune and his definitive books on barbecue. Lolis is also a gifted musician. Nobody I know of writes as well about New Orleans, its history and people. We are wonderfully proud of him and his accomplishments."
As a recognized expert on New Orleans food and culture, Elie wrote the 2005 book, "Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country," and recently produced a television documentary based on the book. In his upcoming book, "Of Bondage & Memory," Elie explores the enduring legacy of the slave trade on two continents. He also is editor of "Cornbread Nation 2: The Best of Southern Food Writing," a producer for the Smithsonian Institute's Jazz Oral History Project and a current Soros Katrina Media Fellow as awarded by the Open Society Institute.
Admission to the Virginia Film Society screening of "Faubourg Tremé" is $9 and free to Film Society members. Individual admission tickets may be purchased 30 minutes prior to each screening at the venue box office, when seats are available.
Elie's visit is sponsored jointly by the Virginia Film Festival, the Office for Diversity and Equity, Creative Writing Program, Carter G. Woodson Institute and the Office of African-American Affairs. The Southern Humanities Media Fund, a project of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, was one of the film's funders.
For information, visit the Virginia Film Society Web site at www.vafilm.com or call (434) 982-5277.