VANISHING PEARLS is the story of paradise lost – an ongoing, environmental David and Goliath struggle between multinational oil and gas company BP plc (Beyond Petroleum) and a 300 person, Louisiana Gulf community dependant on oyster fishing. The battlefield is the Gulf coast of Louisiana, and the opening salvo was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. For over a century, the people of Pointe a la Hache, Louisiana have survived by fishing off of the plentiful waters surrounding their community. Over time, the powerful oil and gas industry has threatened this small, tight knit community’s way of life, culminating with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Told from the point of view of the film’s “David”, local oyster fishing businessman Byron Encalade, we learn how a once prolific fishing community has nearly vanished.
The backstory is the decade’s long intrigue surrounding legislative and policy-driven machinations over this important, lucrative crossroads between water and land, east and west, fish and fowl.
The current story begins with “Goliath”, BP plc, and the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which continues to bleed a community through the after effects of the oil spill, economic fall out and questionable accountability. Encalade, his small tribe of fisher families and a community of Louisiana small business people continue to fight through legal channels and other means to find justice.
For New Orleans based producer-director Nailah Jefferson, the most profound aspect of his tragic struggle hit home in a remarkably resonant and local way: “I am awestruck by the fact that a community fifty five miles away from my front door step that defines and sustains my identity as a New Orleanian was completely unknown and foreign to me. With films and storytelling, we can shed light in dark places -and those dark places aren’t particularly in farthest reaches or various, exotic ports of call. They are often in our own backyard and next door.”