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October 23, 2008

Hurricane Gustav changes UW professor’s plans for film about that other hurricane

Hurricane Gustav blew away the premiere of UW Communication Professor Hanson Hosein’s second film, Independent America: Rising from Ruins, but as it turned out, the storm was a lagniappe (a French New Orleans word for bonus) for Hosein and his film.

It’ll be shown for the first time today (Oct. 23) in New Orleans, the result of months spent documenting the nerve and guts of small New Orleans businesses reopening after the August 2005 storm. They were far ahead of most larger stores, which waited to see how the city would rebuild.

Gustav, which occurred exactly three years after Katrina, offered Hosein a chance to record some of those same small businesses preparing for another disaster.

“It also helped validate the premise of the film, that independent retailers will always return first to help rebuild,” Hosein said.

The film also records those business owners’ dismay about tax incentives offered to large companies considering opening or reopening in New Orleans.

As part of the film preview sponsored Thursday by the Urban Conservancy, Hosein plans to record a question-and-answer session with several of the characters. It will then be incorporated into a broadcast version and a submission to the Sundance Film Festival.

Independent America: Rising from Ruins follows Hosein’s first film, Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop, which debuted in 2005. Hosein and his wife, former television anchorwoman Heather Hughes, traveled 13,000 miles, across 32 states in 52 days, recording how small businesses carve themselves places in a world where chain stores cast big footprints.