Film spotlights survivors’ memories of floods long gone
Students and guests had the chance to experience the stories of a small town’s inhabitants whose lives drastically changed in the aftermath of a catastrophic flood.
The Glassell School of Arts screened Kevin Jerome Everson’s new feature “The Island of St. Matthews” as part of the Blaffer on Screen series. “The Island of St. Matthews” depicts the stories surrounding the flood that occurred in Westport, Miss. in 1973. Using 16mm film, Everson filmed and documented the individuals who were affected by the flood.
“I think of the way I make my films as the hand of the painter, meaning I love the grain and flash that gets on the film,” Everson said. “I like the fact that you’re never thinking that you’re not watching the film because the hand of the artist is always there painting the picture for you.”
Emerson realized he didn’t have any family photos of his mother’s side of the family — they were lost in the flood. Everson decided to go back to Westport and learn from hands-on experience about the flood and the damage it left behind. Art professor Michael Sicinski said he felt the film captured the lost memories of these individuals and illustrates them to be remembered in a unique way.
“I think one of the strangest ideas is that history itself is a fiction, and we form our own history,” Sicinski said. “So you get these people who lose things and in some sense the film is a record of what was lost.”
“The Island of St. Matthews” was filmed in 2013 with help from the community of St. Matthews.
Everson’s goal was to capture and construct sounds and images of the town: individuals sitting on their front porches, the sound of the church bell and the new beauty school that was built after the flood damaged the old one.
“I wanted to capture how the waters shifted, how the bell was rung by the church. I wanted to be a minimalist but to show how times were changed because of the flood,” Everson said.
Throughout the film, Everson hoped he told the stories of the individuals who were featured in his film. He said that every person will perceive his film differently and that he wants the audience to know the meaning of the film was based solely on the oral tradition of the town.
“Me being an artist, the whole value of me documenting this town is to show the loss of art in which they are family photographs and other values that explain the history and stories of these people,” Everson said.