by Ken Korman
Made over a period of ten years by New Orleans filmmaker Kevin McCaffrey and Robert A. Thomas, Director of Loyola’s Center For Environmental Communication, this hour-long documentary does an excellent job of condensing the complex 60-year history of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) while placing it squarely within the context of 2013. Originally designing to allow large commercial ships to bypass the Mississippi river and create a high-speed passageway between the Port of New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, MRGO was sold to local residents in the 1950s as a necessary boon to the local economy. But MRGO was so ill-conceived by the Army Corps of Engineers, it never had a chance of fulfilling its mission. Instead, it created a superhighway for hurricanes and storm surges to the city of New Orleans, and contributes substantially to the continuing disappearance of our coastal wetlands.
The film incorporates interviews with interested parties on all sides of MRGO, allowing everyone time to share their views as issues have evolved from whether to fully close the waterway to maritime shipping (which happened in 2009) to finding the resources and political will to restore the damage MRGO has inflicted on the region. The ten-year shoot gives the film special weight — it’s nothing short of heart-rending to see everyone from fisherman to scientists to former St. Bernard Parish President Junior Rodriguez all warning of impending disaster in interviews conducted in pre-Katrina 2004. Pulitzer Prize—winning environmental journalist Bob Marshall and Mark Davis, Director of Tulane’s Institute on Water Resources Law, serve as the film’s conscience as it gradually leaves the past behind and delivers a direct call to action. “Look in the mirror,” says Marshall, if you want to understand how MRGO could be allowed to happen — and to see who is ultimately responsible for restoring our coast.
MRGOing, Going, Gone screens tonight, October 9, at 6:30 p.m. in Loyola’s Bobet Hall, Room 332, on the University’s main campus. Thomas, McCaffrey, and Marshall will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening. Admission is free and open to the public. The film will also be shown locally on WYES beginning on October 20. More info here.