Main content

SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories

Everywhere you look in Southern Louisiana there's water: rivers, bayous, swamps, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico. And everyone in Cajun Country has a water story, or two or three or more. Its waterways support the biggest economies in Louisiana - a $70 billion a year oil and gas industry, a $2.4 billion a year fishing business, tourism and recreational sports.

They are also home to some insidious polluters: the same oil and gas industry, 200 petrochemical plants along a 100-mile-long stretch of the Mississippi known 'Cancer Alley,' the world's largest Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico and erosion that is costing the coastline twenty five square miles of wetlands a year. At the same time, SoLa is home to one of America's most vital and unique cultures; if everyone who lives there has a water story they can also most likely play the fiddle, waltz, cook an etoufee and hunt and fish.

SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories is a poignant look back at a way of life that may now be gone forever, and a prescient view at exactly how the gusher in the Gulf was allowed to happen. Thanks to corruption, malfeasance and the Louisiana industrial and political climate, environmental pollution seems to be simply a cost of doing business.

'SoLa is the most comprehensive film on southern Louisiana that I have seen. It is a great crash course that deftly addresses the ecological, economic and social issues facing Louisiana. Not only does the film point out Louisiana's importance to the rest of the nation but every part of our nation faces some manifestation of these issues. It should be a wake up call for us to stop looking to corporations to cease doing the wrong thing or trying to regulate them into doing the right thing. Instead, I hope this film is a piece of what inspires us to start taking back power by creating vibrant local economies. That framework remains in many places and SoLa shows the local economic vibrancy that still exists, although threatened, in coastal Louisiana and the essential cohesive for community and family that it provides. This film should help inspire our youth to 'work' for ecological, economic, and communal health.' David Burley, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Author, Losing Ground: Identity and Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana

'This is a superb treatment of how the oil and gas industry threatens not just a way of life in southern Louisiana but life itself. Water is the centerpiece of cultural and ecological health in and around New Orleans and it is being ruined, slowly, by neglect and greed. SoLa should be a wakeup call for the country.' Lee Clarke, Professor, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University, Author, Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination

'For most Americans, Louisiana is a unique place, distinct from the rest of the country in several ways. In this film, Jon Bowermaster has illustrated connections between Louisiana and the Midwestern states that are the source of considerable fertilizer runoff via the northern tributaries of the Mississippi River. Moreover, Jon Bowermaster does not ignore the fact that we all share the need for food, energy, clean water, and jobs. Rather, he asks: How does one estimate the combined economic and environmental price we pay for these necessities? This core environmental question facing Americans is explored in depth in this film. As such, the film is a valuable educational tool in informing scientists and policy makers, present and future.' Dr. Daniel Janies, Associate Professor, School of Biomedical Science, The Ohio State University

'SoLa is a beautifully filmed and moving story about a way of life that is threatened. Its relevance, from an educational perspective, is with the rapidly growing field of environmental studies which, more than many of our traditional disciplines, put humans in the ecosystems and in environmental change...An excellent overview.' Dr. Robert Gramling, Professor of Sociology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Author, Oil on the Edge: Offshore Development, Conflict, Gridlock, co-Author, Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

'SoLa is a powerful documentary that does an excellent job of interweaving economic, political, and environmental issues in pointed and powerful cultural narratives about unrestrained capital destroying the traditions and ecological health of a vitally important region. The lessons should resonate with all of us in the sense that nearly every part of the globe faces some version of these problems. The documentary's attention to the relationships among local cultures, state power, and corporate influence make it ideal for the classroom and for anthropology courses in particular.' Steve Striffler, University of New Orleans, Anthropology of Work Review

'Raise[s] myriad social, economic, and governmental issues...Demand[s] that audiences engage in soul-searching about who we are as a nation...Useful as the starting point for a discussion of what should be valued by society: people over profits, health over short-term wealth, and family business over polluting corporations. It is a superb introduction to the threat posed by the oil and gas industry to life itself.' Dr. Caryn Neumann, Miami University of Ohio, 49th Parallel

'Given the recent flooding of the Mississippi basin, including southern Louisiana, this timely documentary concerns the importance of the Louisiana watershed to both the state and the country...This well-made and comprehensive film is highly recommended.' Library Journal

'As we continue grappling with the escalating and vexing dilemmas surrounding energy policy, the film offers another critical analysis of the uneven distribution of burdens and harms in the networks of energy production, consumption and waste. It shows that these problems are not limited to Louisiana, but implicate the entire nation that depends on the region for shipping ports, seafood and biodiversity in addition to oil and gas.' Jessica Smith Rolston, University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthropology Review Database

'[Sola] is awash in anger and outrage at forces that threaten the ecosystems and livelihood of those who make their living from the waters (including the Gulf of Mexico) of Louisiana. Staggering statistics abound, but the gripping personal profiles put a human face on the ecological devastation and local culture.' Booklist

'An alternatively appealing and appalling view of south Louisiana...Recommended.' Jim Hobbs, Loyola University, Educational Media Reviews Online

'A compelling narrative told by a series of long-time local activists...The issues South Louisiana faces resemble the dilemmas other coastal areas will face with rising sea levels and intensified coastal weather events. This fragile coastline, with established fisheries and intense resource extraction activities, does not represent a sustainable situation...Other coastal locations around the globe will likely see similar, slow retreats--not wholesale and rapid abandonment. So South Louisiana stands as a bell weather for other coastal locations...This engaging documentary should offer satisfying insights.' Craig Colten, H-Environment, H-Net Review


Main credits

Cavanagh, Chris (screenwriter)
Bowermaster, Jon (screenwriter)
Bowermaster, Jon (film producer)
Bowermaster, Jon (film director)

Other credits

Editor, Chris Cavanagh; camera, Jefferson Miller, Brian C. Miller Richard; music, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Environmental Justice
Marine Biology
Natural Resources
Oceans and Coasts
Science, Technology, Society
Social Justice
Toxic Chemicals


BP oil spill, Louisiana, Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River, SoLa, water, water pollution, Cajun County, pollution, dead zone, cancer alley, wetlands, BP, fishing, oil spill, economics, Jeff Dauzat, Ivor van Heerden, Tracy Kuhns, Marylee Orr, Michael Roberts, Father Robert Ryan, Paul Templet, Dean Wilson, Wilma Subra,"SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories",Bullfrog Films

Related Films

Black Wave

The story of the Exxon Valdez and the 20-year legal battle to get restitution…

After the Spill

The oil and gas industry has historically dominated Louisiana politics…

The New Rulers of the World

Award-winning journalist, John Pilger, investigates the realities of globalization…