Oscar Movies: Louisiana Story, The (1948): Flaherty Last, Beautiful Docu

“The Louisiana Story,” documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty’s last feature, is one of his most beautifully shot work, a feature that earned him and his wife Frances an Oscar nomination for Motion Picture Story.

Sponsored by Standard Oil, the film stirred controversy as critics saw it as a paean to the minimal effects oil company can have on the wilderness it seeks to exploit.

Flaherty chose a cast of amateur players to act out a simple story of a young Cajun boy (Joseph Boudreaux) and his parents living in Louisiana’s bayou country, side-by-side with a huge oil derrick. Which explains why the film’s status as a nonfiction work was disputed.

The boy is at first disturbed by the clanging machinery, but the workers at the derrick soon show him the benefits of their labors and promise to leave the land unscathed after drilling.

The message that the film’s sponsor promotes is debatable. Even so, “The Louisiana Story” deals with a consistent theme in Flaherty’s work, man’s relationship to his natural environment, demonstrated in in such classics as “Nanook of the North” and “Man of Aran.”

Oscar Nominations: 1

Motion Picture Story: Frances and Robert Flaherty.

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winners were Richard Schweizer and David Wechsler for Zinnemann’s “The Search.”

 

Running time: 77 minutes.

Directed by Robert J. Flaherty

Written by Robert J. Flaherty and Frances H. Flaherty

Released: September 28, 1948

DVD: May 20, 2003