Local filmmaker's Katrina-inspired memory bank bows at Tribeca

Local filmmaker's Katrina-inspired memory bank bows at Tribeca
April 27, 2009
Mike Scott

When he started it, Matt Faust envisioned his short film "Home" as little more than an exercise in self-prescribed, post-Katrina therapy.

With no formal background in filmmaking -- and armed with just a collection of old photos, home videos and some computer expertise he picked up while earning degrees in Landscape Architecture at LSU -- the Hannan High School graduate simply wanted to make a video that might help his family remember what was lost when their home on tiny Derbigny Street in Chalmette was destroyed by the storm.

"I felt like it was something I just had to do, for myself and my family, " Faust said last week.

What he couldn't have envisioned was that his wordless six-minute film would find its way to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, one of the nation's premiere film fests, where it will screen this week in competition in the documentary-short category.

"It's pretty overwhelming, " Faust said, "especially coming at this time. My wife and I are having our first child on Thursday. My head's swimming right now. So much is going on. So many life changes are going on."

"Home" is a film that defies strict categorization. It was tagged as an experimental film when it first played at the Pelican D'Or Short Film Festival at Chalmette's Nunez Community College. Tribeca considers it a documentary short. It's also been labeled a work of animation.

None of those is a perfect fit.
An image from the short film 'Home,' directed by Matt Faust. "Home" will screen Thursday, Friday and Sunday in New York City as part of the Tribeca Film Festival's "Time Will Tell" shorts program. For details, visit www.tribecafilm.com. See embedded video below to watch the film.

Using photographs taken before and after Katrina -- many with matching camera angles -- Faust has assembled a flowing series of engaging, almost surreal photo composites that allow the "camera" to move through the frame. Not quite 3-D, but more than 2-D, Faust calls it "two-and-a-half-D."

Along the way, memories meld with post-Katrina reality in a warm, poignant rhythm.

In once sequence, a child -- Faust's older sister, Catherine Massenburg -- holds a ball victoriously over her head, with a plain of cracked post-Katrina mud beneath her feet. Her Grandpaw, William Graves, watches from the doorway of a Katraina-ravaged house, marked with the familiar Katrina glyph. Suddenly, everything morphs into a rainbow of pre-Katrina color, the mud giving way to an emerald green lawn. The expressions of Catherine and her grandfather never change.

If it sounds like it plays out with all the dreaminess of a fond memory, that's by design.

"It's not so much a story as a reflection on what was there, " Faust said. "The basic dynamic is, it's moving in and out of a remembered environment. One of the things that inspired it was my experience of going back to my house after Katrina, and I'd heard the same thing from a lot of people: You'd go back and be in the debris and see an old, dirty object or something that would trigger a memory of what was."

Unsurprisingly, the film has struck a chord with local audiences that have seen it. Faust said he also hopes it reminds people outside of New Orleans of the real tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. So far, so good. Earlier this week, New York Magazine named it one of the publication's five favorite short films from the festival. (It's also streaming "Home" on its Web site; see embedded video below.)

"I thought there were some meanings and messages that everybody could relate to, " he said. "I think everybody has some kind of memory associated with home. Everybody has that time and place that's special to them, and that's the big part of what everybody lost in Katrina -- they lost that home."

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