My junior year at Tulane, one of my French/Linguistics professors had done her dissertation on Creole French in Terrebonne Parish, specifically this one town called Montegut on Isle de Jean Charles.
I went out with Nathalie (my professor) to help her collect language research at a shrimping season kick-off party in Chauvin, LA. Her theory was that swear words are the last remnants of a dying language (in this case, Creole and Cajun), and she gave us student helpers a questionnaire with a list of Creole curse words to ask locals if they recognized and/or used them. This didn’t go over too well with the locals, who understandably seemed to be tired of being portrayed as “swamp people”, and were not about to listen to us rattle off every swear word in the language of their ancestors and pride. So we gladly put it aside and enjoyed the fried everything at the levee-side party. (Sadly, this celebration of faith and good hope was two days prior to the BP oil spill, which put a serious damper on any shrimping efforts for some time to come.)
We ended up driving around the area after the party, and went to go visit a few of the families that Nathalie got to know while doing her research there for three years. We were lucky enough to physically be able to drive out to Montegut, because there was a long thin stretch of road that with a high tide or big storm could make getting out to the island impossible. Just take a look at the above map…out deep down in the bayou land gets pretty patchy.
I quite honestly had never seen a town like Montegut.
Trailers and houses on stilts,
Houses built into swamps,
And this random alien invasion.
But the people here were proud, and weren’t about to leave.
I watched the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, tonight and found myself having a few déjà vu moments. I remembered that before driving back to New Orleans, we had stopped by a cluttered gas station along a river or levee and started talking with some guy who was just sitting in an old wheely chair outside, just watching the day pass by. There was what appeared to be a floating, yellow top section of a house in the river just across the road, and the guy explained that they were making use of it for some kind of film. I took a picture of it because it was pretty random. I didn’t think much of that little tid bit of information til I saw this (below is a screen shot from a scene in the movie):
Low and behold, they were using it as the Bathtub town school!
This is the photo I snapped of it back in April 2010:
According to Wikipedia,
The 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild was filmed in Montegut. Director Benh Zeitlin and his crew worked out of an abandoned gas station in town, and built the film’s fictional town — the “Bathtub” — by hand with found artifacts and rusted-out equipment from the surrounding area.  The film was later nominated for four Academy Awards.
…and this would be that abandoned gas station! Cajun Country Shop. It was right across the street from the yellow house.
Very “Popspotty” of me. That’s a plug for my Dad’s blog, PopSpotsNYC, where he tracks down the exact locations of different record albums, paintings, and movies.
Just wanted to share. I loved this little trip down in the bayou. The air was still and hot, the trees, houses, and telephone wires all seemed to be tilted juuust a bit this way and that way. People fished in the unbudging water, and it really felt like a million miles from nowhere, but in the best way that could be.
Oh, and I’m sure Jennifer Lawrence was great and all, but that little Quvenzhané (pronounced /kwə.ˈvɛn.ʒə.neɪ/; kwuh-ven-zhuh-nay) Wallis should have won the Oscar for Best Actress. She was a boss. Actually, a beast.