In 2010 writer and filmmaker Nijla Mu’min came across the story of the mass drowning of six black teens in a Shreveport, Louisiana. To cool off one hot summer day, a teen wandered into the shallow part of the Red River. But at some point he slipped into deep water and started to drown. Six more teens rushed in to save him. But none of them could swim. Only one child made it back to shore.
Moved by this story, Nijla began to craft an idea for a film that would not only remember these teens but also explore African Americans’ relationship with water, which she believes is informed by such traumas as The Middle Passage, Hurricane Katrina, and the BP Oil spill.
Nijla’s film Deluge examines this issue through the lens of main character Tiana and her introduction to an aquatic underworld. After witnessing the mass drowning of her friends and struggling with the decision not to jump in, 14-year old Tiana must decide if she will join the order of black mermaids that protect the oil-drenched waters of Lake Pontchartrain where her friends rest.
The film blends coming of age drama, magical realism, and psychological suspense to explore traumatic memory in a post- BP oil spill New Orleans.
The film is not only inspired by the drowning of the six Louisiana teens, but also by a poem Nijla penned years ago, as she explains on her fundraising website for the film project:
I couple these real world origins with a poem I wrote about black mermaids born from the souls of Africans who jumped, or were thrown overboard slave ships during the Middle Passage. The mermaids have guarded the waters since then, protecting the bones and souls of the ancestors, while also welcoming new souls who perished during Hurricane Katrina, which left a disproportionate amount of African American people without shelter, safety, or support. The mermaids, now endangered due to the BP Oil Spill, protect the drowned teens but also come to the surface and seek out Tiana to join them. They know she is a conflicted soul.
This ambitious project has the potential to become a beautiful and intelligent masterpiece, but to make her dream a reality, Nijla needs your help. She needs to raise $25,000 to create the film she envisions and has less than 25 days to do so. Click here to learn more about Deluge, how you can make a donation, and how your money will be used.