Documentary comes back to where it all started

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

The people have spoken.

Three weeks ago, when Franklin Martin’s documentary film “Walking on Dead Fish” opened for its debut weekend at the AMC Palace Theatre at Elmwood, exactly how long it would be stay in the rotation would be determined by the success it would garner over those first three days.

Well, Martin’s film was extended through this past weekend. And it’s still going strong – the film just opened Friday in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and – yes – LaPlace, at the Silver City Cinema.

That means that if you haven’t had the time to make your way to the Palace, Martin’s tale of the East St. John football team and its adjustment to post-Katrina life just pulled up closer to you.

I really can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re a prep football fan. And if you aren’t (well, that suggests you probably aren’t reading this column, but bear with me), the story is still well worth a viewing.

Martin, who wrote, directed and produced the film, zigged where many zagged in post Katrina story telling. He didn’t focus on a school in a flooded area, just trying to pick itself up off of the ground.

Instead, he brings us to East St. John, which took in over 200 displaced students, 20 of which who would make their way onto the football team. In many ways, it was a microcosm of the entire area, busting at the seams with displaced folk.

How would the storm affect the every day lives of these kids, who were ripped out of their familiar surroundings and forced to adapt to a new environment? How would East St. John Coach Larry Dauterive integrate these new faces – many of which were stars in their own right at their previous schools – into his lineup full of already established starters?

Not even an offensive team captain was safe, as running back Stanley Jackson – a senior — would soon begin losing playing time to Brother Martin transfer Johnny Owen – a junior. Their story is really one that makes the film go, an in-depth look through the eyes of a transplant, an incumbent starter and how each handles the depth chart shuffle. And one another.

Another plus is the tale of how fellow running back Joshuelle Tuesno would step up to help his family out in a time of dire need – as Martin puts it, “He says some of the most mature, poignant things you will ever hear from a high school student.”

It’s not just a story about football, but really how these kids learn to thrive with one another. The story is told through their eyes.

Of course, Martin couldn’t have asked for much more from the on-field footage – three East St. John/Hahnville games, two of which go down to the wire, a thrilling contest with John Curtis, and an inspired postseason run. For a team that could have been ripped apart at the seams by conflict, its an uplifting tale to be sure.

So just as we bounce back from Gustav, Ike, and all the headaches that came along with them, take some time out to see how a group of high school kids made the most out of a truly trying time – and in the process, helped bring a community back together.