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THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2007
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Teen fiddler Amanda Shaw learns about the importance of Louisiana wetlands and bayous while riding through them on an airboat with Tab Benoit, a Grammy-nominated musician who tells how his beloved songwriting cabin was blown to pieces by Katrina's high winds. They and other Louisiana musicians star in the IMAX film 'Hurricane on the Bayou,' which opens in Huntsville this weekend.
Courtesy photo
Teen fiddler Amanda Shaw learns about the importance of Louisiana wetlands and bayous while riding through them on an airboat with Tab Benoit, a Grammy-nominated musician who tells how his beloved songwriting cabin was blown to pieces by Katrina's high winds. They and other Louisiana musicians star in the IMAX film "Hurricane on the Bayou," which opens in Huntsville this weekend.

Storming into IMAX
Fiddler in 'Hurricane on Bayou' says music will bring people back to New Orleans

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

Amanda Shaw is only 16, but she's been doing a lot more than fiddling around in Cajun country.

Her skill on the fiddle got her a role in an IMAX movie that opens this weekend at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. She will perform at a special screening event Friday night.

Months before Hurricane Katrina formed, producer and director Greg MacGillivray began shooting "Hurricane on the Bayou" to warn of the dangers that the loss of the Louisiana wetlands could cause for New Orleans and the Gulf area.

Then life imitated art, and the devastation the movie was to explore became a reality. MacGillivray and his crew altered the scope of the film, adding a simulated hurricane effect and footage shot after Katrina to show the effects of a Category 5 hurricane on the unprotected bayou.

While actress Meryl Streep is the narrator, this film is told through the eyes of Shaw and other musicians: Zydeco showman Chubby Carrier, Cajun rock and blues guitarist Tab Benoit, gospel queen Marva Wright and singer-songwriter-pianist Allen Toussaint. Shaw believes the music of New Orleans is what will bring people back. She has been playing the violin since age 4 and then picked up Cajun music.

"They wanted a young person that the young IMAX audience could relate to, and they saw an article about me in the paper and asked me," Shaw said.

She is now making appearances to help promote the movie, along with trying to finish her junior year at Mount Carmel Academy, a Catholic girls' school in the hard-hit Lakeview area of New Orleans. It was able to reopen about five months after the hurricane.

Her home is in the suburb of Covington, where there was more wind than water damage, and you'll see her family returning to see their home for the first time after the hurricane. They camped out there for a while with no utilities, like many others.

"New Orleans is the greatest city in the world, and so unique, and that's why I want to share this film," Shaw said. "I think seeing 'Hurricane on the Bayou' is the first step in helping rebuild. It informs you about why the wetlands are important — they reduce the force of the storm, kind of like speed bumps."

She was 14 when filming started and she rode an airboat through the bayous and made friends with alligators. She said she has learned a lot about wetlands and other issues.

"It's a great non-political film; it doesn't point fingers, but it points out the need to preserve the wetlands, culture and city," she said.

"And we don't have to wait on the government — we can get out there as people and communities and work on this together. I hope everybody comes to see the film," Shaw said.

Shaw opened for Delbert McClinton at Alexander City's jazz festival a couple of years ago, and she played "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" with Cindy Lauper to open for Cher. She's been on the Rosie O'Donnell show a couple of times and Fox and Friends and others.

MacGillivray, a two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, began shooting in early 2005, following the four musicians as they explored the beautiful, alligator-filled bayous on airboats and focused on the wetlands, which he said are disappearing at the rate of one acre every 30 minutes.

"We set out originally to tell the story of a future, hypothetical hurricane and how the rapid erosion of the wetlands left New Orleans more vulnerable to flooding," he said, "but when Katrina struck in the middle of doing that, we were no longer filming what might happen, we were suddenly more like news reporters filming what did happen.

"We had to completely rethink the film, which evolved into a much broader and more deeply emotional story than we ever imagined. We realized we had a unique ability to capture footage of how Katrina impacted New Orleans with the tremendous sense of scale that IMAX theater photography brings with it — and to tell this story in a way that captures the humanity of it, the essential role of the wetlands environment, and the undeniable, musical magic of the city all at once. The footage is unlike any other footage that has been seen."

MacGillivray Freeman Films also produced films such as "Everest" and "Coral Reef Adventure." Audubon Nature Institute was executive producer for "Hurricane on the Bayou," which is presented by The Weather Channel.

If you go

What: IMAX film "Hurricane on the Bayou" opens this weekend

Where: Spacedome IMAX Theater, U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville

When: Beginning Saturday, show times will be 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; on Friday, special screenings of the 45-minute film will be held at 7 and 8 p.m., with fiddler Amanda Shaw playing after each screening and Cajun food beginning at 6 p.m.

Admission: Special Friday screening tickets, with fiddling and food, are $25 ($15 for those 12 and under); for regular daily IMAX movie prices and availability, call 837-3400

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