Lowland Kids

What do you do when the very ground you walk on disappears beneath your feet? For the handful of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana residents, who have lived for generations on that rural spot of land on the Gulf Coast, they are preparing themselves for just such an eventuality. They’re about to become the country’s first climate change refugees, according to Sandra Winther’s short documentary Lowland Kids.

We meet teenage siblings Juliette and Howard Brunet, who are wistfully preparing themselves for the times ahead when they’ll have to leave behind the idyllic land where they grew up. The two are orphans being watched over by their uncle. They don’t like to talk about what happened to their parents, but their uncle, Chris Brunet, mentions addiction. Their mom went first, and shortly after that their dad passed away, as well.

“We get a sense of what life on the island must be like as the film maintains a languid pace…”

Despite past woes and an uncertain future, the young ones seem to lead a relatively carefree existence and are the best of friends. We get a sense of what life on the island must be like as the film maintains a languid pace, reflecting a slow, easy rhythm of existence on this dot of land.

Rather than forcing its message, the film shows us the texture of life in the tiny community, where houses are built up on stilts, and with every passing day, the ocean claims more territory. Part of the problem is that much of the state’s lands were formed from sediment washed down the Mississippi River, leaving enormous deltas and vast areas of coastal marsh and swamp. Because of that, the land is more fragile than that of other parts of the country.

“…the region’s landmass is disappearing at an alarming clip — it loses an area the size of a football field every hour.”

The upshot is that the region’s landmass is disappearing at an alarming clip — it loses an area the size of a football field every hour. The reasons behind the steady erosion of land include oil and gas industry prospecting in the Gulf, which takes it toll on the shoreline, as well as natural elements — hurricanes rip away more of the soil with each go-around. Climate change is cited as the cause of more numerous, and increasingly powerful hurricanes that batter the coastline, say the majority of climate scientists.

Lowland Kids serves as a warning of what may become more commonplace as low-lying areas are threatened with erosion due to climate change. One can only hope that it’s not too late to prevent similar incidents from becoming a more common occurrence.

Lowland Kids (2019) Directed by Sandra Winther. Starring Juliette Brunet, Howard Brunet, Chris Brunet, Mike Arceneaux, Cullen Perrodin, Makeya Chauvin. Lowland Kids screened at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

7 out of 10 magnolias

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