04/21/2014 09:27 am ET Updated Apr 21, 2014

New Orleans Filmmaker Spotlights Black Oystermen Of Louisiana

Tom Williams via Getty Images

Over the next few days, you’ll read and hear a lot about the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig that exploded on April 20, 2010, gushing hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and creating the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. What you might not hear a lot about are the stories of the black fishermen in the southernmost tip of Louisiana who’re among the worst impacted by the spill. New Orleans filmmaker Nailah Jefferson hopes to correct that by elevating their stories through her new film “Vanishing Pearls,” which opens today in New York City and Los Angeles. The plight of these black oystermen (a subject first covered nationally here at Colorlines) has been an ongoing battle, beginning with when oil and gas companies began drilling in the waters they fish from decades ago. Over time, these fourth- and fifth-generation fishermen had already suffered through a number of previous disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. Jefferson spent the last three years following these men and their families as they’ve coped with just the latest disaster. After her film was featured at the Slamdance Film Festival — a showcase for films that the Sundance Film Festival slept on — it was picked up by acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay, whose African-American Film Festival Release Movement (AFFRM) company will distribute it. We caught up with Jefferson by phone to discuss her experience in creating this important film.

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