Directed by Leah Mahan
Visit Film Site: turkeycreekproject.org
The film follows Derrick Evans and his family and neighbors, who are descendants of emancipated slaves who settled on the Gulf Coast in the 1860s. They have been stewards of Turkey Creek’s rich wetland habitat for generations, where they have farmed and fished and were baptized.
Today, the Turkey Creek watershed lies at the center of the sprawling city of Gulfport – Mississippi’s fastest-growing urban area. The threat of encroaching sprawl, spurred by the gaming industry in the 1990s, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 mobilized members of this insular, self-sufficient community and made them citizen activists on a regional and national level. Turkey Creek’s hard-won victories were featured in an April 20, 2010, front-page article in USA Today commemorating Earth Day’s 40th anniversary. The BP oil rig exploded on the 20th, spewing oil into the Gulf and threatening the coast’s fragile wetlands. Today residents of Turkey Creek continue their fight for a sustainable future. The film will be completed in 2011.
The production of Turkey Creek has been supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Sundance Documentary Fund, Fledgling Fund, Chicken and Egg Pictures, Just Media Fund, LEF Moving Image Fund, Nu Lambda Trust, Winograd-Hutner Family Fund, Diana Patrick and Amelie Ratliff.
In 2007, Bill Moyers Journal featured the Turkey Creek work in progress on its Web site in conjunction with an episode titled “Katrina Recovery Gone Wrong?” pbs.org/moyers
Leah Mahan is the director of, Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street, which aired on public television in 1997. The documentary chronicles the 12-year struggle of residents to transform Boston’s most devastated neighborhood into a vibrant community. The Ford Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation funded a national education and outreach initiative for the film, including the distribution of the video and companion materials to more than 1,000 nonprofits struggling with sustainable development and community control.
Mahan’s most recent film, Sweet Old Song, is a documentary about Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, an African American fiddler in his 90s who undertakes a bittersweet journey with the woman he loves. The film, which was funded by the Independent Television Service, premiered on the PBS series “P.O.V.” in 2002, had an encore broadcast in 2003 and is now part of the “True Lives” series. It was nominated by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement and was selected by film critic Roger Ebert for his 2004 Overlooked Film Festival. The documentary is part of the ITVS television series “True Stories,” which broadcasts independent American films to foreign audiences. In 2009, in celebration of Howard Armstrong’s centennial, “P.O.V.” streamed “Sweet Old Song” on its Web site, and cultural organizations, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and the First International Film Festival on Aging, screened the film. In recent years Mahan has taught seminars and made presentations on using documentary skills to advance social change. She’s made presentations on the subject to grantees of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, graduate urban studies students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attendees at the Media That Matters conference.