Director’s Statement

My Louisiana Love first began when my best friend, Monique Verdin and her
boyfriend, Mark Krasnoff started recording Monique’s Native American relatives in
southeast Louisiana. Hoping to capture the Houma Indian’s struggle to live in bayou
communities plagued with environmental injustice, they filmed eroding wetlands
and interviewed Native elders. Their documentation shifted after Hurricane Katrina
hit New Orleans and Mark and Monique started filming their personal struggles in
the aftermath’s apocalyptic reality. But 13 months after Hurricane Katrina, Mark
Krasnoff committed suicide. His untimely death left a heavy collection of tapes
behind. I helped Monique move out of Mark’s house after his death, and I can vividly
remember sitting in his home office as she shared his last written words with me. I
could almost feel Mark over my shoulder while I read his wish for the documentary
they had started to be completed and shared with the world. That day his last wish
became my own.

Entrusted with the collection of tapes, I had a steep learning curve in not only
understanding the issues but also in learning how to make a film. Inspired by Mark
and Monique’s dedication to film, even as times got tough, I decided to keep the
camera rolling. As we continued filming, the social and ecological injustice story
kept getting bigger. BP’s oil rig exploded in 2010 and started leaking oil into the
Gulf of Mexico, revealing the seemingly continuous cycle of environmental crises
occurring in Louisiana. My creative team and I recognized that this destructive cycle
had developed from man’s manipulation and exploitation of nature over the past
century, and we worked to find a way the film could reflect the complexities of these
environmental, economic, and cultural issues.

My initial intention to help Monique throughout her grieving process became the
biggest challenge to finishing the film. Monique and I struggled to find a balance
in walking through her real life experiences while also making a film with her as
one of the “main subjects”. It was easy for her to tell me how she felt but then to
figure out how we would share those intimate moments of her life with the world
was a difficult creative process. But we persevered knowing that her personal life
could illuminate a much bigger and urgent story. Together we wrote the narration
weaving Monique’s story with the political storylines and in the end found her voice
to be strong and poetic.

We strived to make the documentary feel like Monique was telling her story to a
new friend, much like when Monique and I were both 21 years old and she took
me home to meet her “French Indian” grandmother, Matine. I sat at Grandmaw
Matine’s kitchen table as she pulled out old photographs from a wooden box, and in
broken English shared stories of her childhood in southeast Louisiana’s wetlands.
Grandmaw Matine’s worn hands carried a history not well-known and now 10 years
later I am honored to help pass on her story. We hope My Louisiana Love will help
the Houma people find a seat at bigger decision-making tables and give a face to the
dire need for a long-term balance between industrial development and preservation
of indigenous cultures and the environment.

– Sharon Linezo Hong