London Film Festival: I’m Carolyn Parker

When I started to study old women and films I decided not to consider documentaries as the field is too extensive.  I’m Carolyn Parker was screened at the LFF a few days ago .  I had recently read  ‘Agewise: fighting the New Ageism in America’ by Margaret Morganroth Gullette. In the chapter about the casualties of Katrina she exposes how the old, poor and disabled suffered the most. The Jonathan Demme film seemed to be about an old woman ‘s resistance in New Orleans after the hurricane – I had to see it.

I was not disappointed.   The director followed Carolyn Parker’s fight to return to her severely damaged  house in a poor neighbourhood  and to have it renovated to its previous state. It took 5 years and battles with the officials of the commission who wanted to redevelop the area (‘over my dead body’ she says), the local politicians and then the crooked contractors.  She also was involved in fighting to restore the local community church. Throughout she had the support of her daughter.

What is remarkable in this film is that although a documentary, it is structured like a feature film. The narrative centers around the return to and renovation of the house. The heroine is Carolyn Parker a black, disabled woman of around 60 years. We get to know her past, her family, her community, her struggles, her anger and tenacity and sense of fun. “Instead of trying to make fiction real, I was trying to find what was dramatic and entertaining about reality” said Demme. He has succeeded. But will the critics and distributors recognise the value of this film? Will they have the vision of screening nationally this example of resistance in these days of cuts affecting the more disadvantaged?  Or will it as one critic predicts find a happy future on More 4 and disappear?

If the film is shown go and see it. If you belong to a film society ask for it. If it is available on DVD buy it.

About rinaross

Born in 1935. MA in Film and Television Studies at the University of Westminster 1998. Studying the representation of older women in film since then.
This entry was posted in Ageing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to London Film Festival: I’m Carolyn Parker

  1. cathie Bjarnason says:

    Thanks for this review, Rina. I want to see this film! Think you are right in thinking it will probably not get a wide distribution – more’s the pity. I am thinking it would be ideal to have a screening at Open’Arts in Ealing.

  2. Elizabeth O'Dell says:

    I had the good fortune of sitting next to Rina (and her husband) for the screening of this most
    heartening and ‘never give up’ film. What a woman, this Carolyn Parker. She’s not afraid of
    anybody, and is both articulate and good humoured (and absolutely firm when called for) advocate, not just for herself and her own house, but for her neighbours and members of
    the congregation of her church.
    I don’t know how many of us would live through the disastrous and terrifying experience of
    Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent floods and still come out fighting. I should say here
    that I grew up in the upper-Midwestern state of Minnesota, and the bungalows in the film
    echoed the streets of my childhood-including the exterior of Carolyn’s house. But the damage
    and the final, carefully repaired and restored result moved me to tears.
    It is so much easier to just accept that what is lost is lost, and to go wherever you have a
    safe, dry, warm place. But not this resident of the Lower 9th of New Orleans. Neighbourhoods do matter,wherever we live, and she knew that the loss of her neighbourhood would be irreparable.
    It’s actually also a lesson in looking around us and recognising the importance of that which
    we take for granted in our rapidly changing environment. In Carolyn’s neighbourhood, it
    was the survival of a part of the city which might otherwise vanish. I would hope that I would
    be as fearless and fierce, should that spirit be required.
    If you can create an opporttunity to see this film either publically or at home (or both), do
    not miss it!
    Elizabeth O’Dell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.