Martha Serpas in Veins in the Gulf

  • Martha Serpas in “Veins in the Gulf”

Before Hurricane Katrina, Elizabeth Coffman and Ted Hardin began capturing the ecological and cultural loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, Cajuns’ historic homeland, for their documentary Veins in the Gulf, and they kept at it through the ravages of Hurricane Gustav and the BP oil spill. Bayou poet and theologian Martha Serpas, Coffman’s former colleague at Tampa State Unviersity, narrates the documentary, chronicling the emotional toll of environmental degradation for the region’s residents. Veins in the Gulf screens for free, Wednesday 5/4 at 6 PM at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Coffman, Hardin, Serpas, and wetlands scientist Nancy Tuchman will hold Q&A after.

Wetlands knock down rising flood waters and filter toxins, mitigating the damage from hurricane and contamination alike, so as they disappear the disasters hit harder and accelerate their loss in a deadly spiral. But the process has been underway for decades, spurred by canals dug for oil and gas extraction. And the levee system, designed to protect against flooding, contributes to land loss by diverting the flow of sediment away from the wetlands and into the Gulf. Hardin and Coffman, who teach film at Loyola University and Columbia respectively, are working with environmental groups to promote wetland restoration in Louisiana and elsewhere.