AFI Movie Club: EVE’S BAYOU
EVE’S BAYOU features the cinematography of Amy Vincent, a graduate of the AFI Conservatory who previously collaborated with director Kasi Lemmons on the short film DR. HUGO.
Movie Trivia about EVE’S BAYOU
-DID YOU KNOW that EVE’S BAYOU is Kasi Lemmon’s feature directorial debut?
-DID YOU KNOW that Kasi Lemmons was inspired to write EVE’S BAYOU by remembering childhood trips she took to Louisiana? She said, “I wanted to write a story about people who were like royalty in a small town. Louisiana has a unique history in the U.S. It was one of the only places where slaves could buy their freedom. Even in the 1700s, there were free people of color who had citizenship because the state was owned by the French.”
-DID YOU KNOW the film was shot on location in Covington and Madisonville, Louisiana, with the Otis House at Fairview-Riverside State Park serving as the family’s estate?
-DID YOU KNOW that although Samuel L. Jackson had been acting for years, EVE’S BAYOU was the first film he ever produced?
-DID YOU KNOW EVE’S BAYOU was produced by current AFI Conservatory Producing faculty member Cotty Chubb?
-DID YOU KNOW that actress Meagan Good was originally set to play 10-year-old Eve Batiste? However, by the time financing came together, Good had grown out of the role and was instead cast as Eve’s rebellious older sister Cisely.
-DID YOU KNOW that the actor who plays Poe Batiste, Jake Smollett, is actually the younger brother of Jurnee Smollett who plays Eve Batiste? They come from a large acting family where all six siblings are performers.
-DID YOU KNOW that the character of Mozelle (Debbi Morgan) was partially based on Kasi Lemmon’s eccentric Aunt Muriel who also lost several husbands under mysterious circumstances, practiced divination and Voodoo, and was told by another conjure woman that she was cursed as a black widow?
-DID YOU KNOW that Lynn Whitfield who plays Eve’s mother Roz Batiste is actually from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has deep roots in black Southern aristocracy?
-DID YOU KNOW that EVE’S BAYOU’S cinematographer Amy Vincent was a 1991 graduate of the AFI Conservatory? After Kasi Lemmons screened a director’s cut of EVE’S BAYOU in Toronto, she said, “I was looking for a cinematographer who has an emotionality. When I was looking to make the short film that was going to help me make the feature, I went to AFI and I looked at a bunch of short films made by AFI students and the film where I felt the most, I called that person. And it was a young DP named Amy Vincent.”
-DID YOU KNOW Kasi Lemmons’ ensemble for EVE’S BAYOU includes one of the most groundbreaking African-American actresses of all time? Diahann Carroll – who plays Elzora – was the first black actress to win a Tony® Award and was also the first black actress to depict a non-stereotypical character on television in JULIA, which debuted in 1968.
-DID YOU KNOW that the film’s investors had Kasi Lemmons cut a key character – Uncle Tony who is confined to a wheelchair with a muscular disorder – completely out of the film for the theatrical version? Lemmons was passionate about including the character in the original director’s cut as he was based on an uncle of hers and because he served as a witness to one of the key events in the film.
-DID YOU KNOW that EVE’S BAYOU became the most successful independent film of 1997? While it cost four million dollars to make, the film took home $15 million at the box office domestically – aided by film critic Roger Ebert’s glowing four-star review. Ebert compared the film to the work of Ingmar Bergman and Tennessee Williams and wrote, “For the viewer, it is a reminder that sometimes films can venture into the realms of poetry and dreams.”
-DID YOU KNOW that EVE’s BAYOU won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and received seven NAACP Image Award nominations, including one for Best Picture? Kasi Lemmons also received the Outstanding Directorial Debut award, created just for her by the National Board of Review.
Learn more at the AFI Catalog.
The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions
-What do you think about the film’s opening monologue about the original Eve? How does family heritage and folklore shape us as individuals?
-How was director Kasi Lemmons influenced by Southern gothic literature? And how does she incorporate Louisiana’s Creole culture into the film?
-What do you think of child actress Jurnee Smollett’s performance? What does she bring to the central role of Eve?
-Eve laments being the middle child and not having her parent’s undivided attention thanks to her older sister Cisely and younger brother Poe. What was your childhood relationship with your siblings (if you had any) and can you relate?
-The film touches upon Louisiana superstitions and premonitions. Why do you think they are a key component of southern life and is this a tradition you subscribe to? Why or why not?
-How does Kasi Lemmons depict the distressing incident in which young Eve sees her father in a whole new light?
-Why does Eve’s older sister Cisely try to reframe their father’s actions? What does the film have to say about childhood memories and shared trauma?
-Why do you think Louis Batiste’s children continue to worship him despite his infidelities? What do you think of Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as the womanizing doctor?
-How does the film create ambiguity around what transpired between Cisely and Louis? The character cut out of the film – Uncle Tony – served as a witness in the director’s cut of the film. How does this alter the scene by not having a witness to the incident?
-Even though Mozelle and Elzora are both fortune tellers/seers, how do they differ in practice?
-Do you believe Mozelle is a cursed woman or mentally ill, as her brother Louis implies? Why do you think she decides to get married for a fourth time despite her track record with her three previous husbands dying mysteriously?
-Did you see Kasi Lemmons’ recent film HARRIET? How is it thematically and aesthetically similar and different to EVE’S BAYOU in the way it represents Harriet Tubman’s spirituality?
-How would you rate EVE’S BAYOU?
In this exclusive AFI Archive video, Kasi Lemmons talks about directing EVE’S BAYOU:
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