Amidst shuttered rural dance clubs and encroaching globalization, five Grammy award-winning Cajun musicians push against stereotypes of the South and move the music of their ancestors forward with the hopes of keeping their culture alive. But the fans are getting older and older, the dance halls are closing, and the language is fading away. Yet these artists push on, winning awards, going on world tours, and are starting to get millennials out two-stepping on Friday nights. But will it be enough to save a dying community? A brand new feature-length documentary, Roots of Fire (Part 1), finds these artists lending their voices, examining the discrimination that almost erased their customs, and sharing the unique sounds created when the forces of fresh talent and deep history collide to fight for cultural survival.
Filmmakers Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremey Lavoi initially started their Roots of Fire project to capture amazing stories in the world of South Louisiana roots music with the goal of sharing those stories in a style that would appeal to audiences outside of Louisiana—hopefully growing the fan bases of both Cajun and Zydeco music in the process. The resulting film achieves those goals, and then some. A beautifully shot, music-filled ride through South Louisiana culture, Roots of Fire focuses on its own questionable future while presenting upbeat, down-home Cajun music to the world at large.
“It is not our intention to make an authoritative work on Cajun music, its vibrant history, or even its contemporary diaspora,” say the Lavois. “We wanted to make something that was authentic to our sensibilities, something entertaining, and something that feels like a window into this colorful artistic community.” What they achieved could possibly mean more to the future of the genre than any history book could muster. Roots of Fire presents a host of artists and musicians to new fans, providing a welcome introduction to the world of Cajun music.
“We also wanted to make a film that was very music-forward and devoted as much running time as we could justify to hearing—and feeling—the actual music,” they say. “At the end of the day, experiencing this music live is the best way to consume it. From day one of this project, it has been our goal to capture that experience as faithfully as possible.”
Film Threat has already given Roots of Fire a 9/10 score, writing, “Prepare to be immersed in the wild gumbo of the live scene in Lafayette, Louisiana, that strives to keep the locals’ French traditions alive.” And now’s the chance to catch Roots of Fire on the big screen at a host of North American film festivals this fall. A list of scheduled festival appearances can be found below.
Please visit rootsoffire.com for more information on the documentary, its creators, and what’s to come from the Roots of Fire team.
Roots of Fire Film Fest Schedule:
September 22-28 - Lunenburg, NS - Lunenburg Doc Fest
October 7-15 - Hot Springs, AR - Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
October 19–24 - Memphis, TN - Indie Memphis Film Festival
November 4-14 - Grayslake, IL - Lake County Film Festival
November 3-13 - New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Film Festival 2022
November 10-13 - Lafayette, LA - Southern Screen Festival 2022
March 2022 - Oxford, MS - Oxford Film Festival
April 2022 - Houston, TX - World-Fest Houston
June 2022 - San Francisco, CA - San Francisco Documentary Film Festival
August 2022 - Providence, RI - Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival
More About Roots of Fire’s Filmmakers:
Director-Producer Abby Berendt Lavoi: Abby Berendt Lavoi is an award-winning Director, Writer, Producer, mother, cancer survivor, and joyful ball of sarcasm. She is the Showrunner of My Amazing Cheap Date: New Orleans and has received honors and awards from the New Orleans Film Festival, SIFF, SFIndieFest, Indie Memphis, Hot Springs Doc Fest, Telly Awards, Promax/BDA, and many others. Her TV credits include MTV, TVLand, Nick@Nite, and Current TV. In 2021, she won the Women in Film and Television’s Resilient Woman Award. She won Best Editor at Mockfest for the film Rolled. Her series It’s a Rough Life was a finalist for the NYTVF History Channel Unscripted Development Pipeline. At her video agency, Lavoi Creative, she has created content for Pandora, Google, Vox, Discovery, and more.
Director-Producer Jeremey Lavoi: Jeremey Lavoi is an award-winning Director working in non-fiction. He is the Showrunner of My Amazing Cheap Date: New Orleans. He was on the Emmy Award winning staff at Current TV where he directed dozens of short documentaries on various topics including Skating the Aftermath, about New Orleans skateboarders in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At his video agency, Lavoi Creative, he has produced content for Google, Netflix, Vox, Discovery, and others. In 2012 his team won Best Film at the San Francisco 48 Hour Film Festival. His web series It’s a Rough Life, which was a finalist for the 2014 NYTVF History Unscripted Development Pipeline. His additional television credits include Discovery Health, Science Channel, MTV2, CNBC, History Channel, and TechTV/ G4.
Producer-Sound Stephen Thorpe: Stephen Thorpe is a Bay Area based audio engineer. In 2012 he founded Din Pan Alley, an audio services company with a sound design studio in uptown Oakland. He does field and post-production sound for networks including ABC, CNN, NatGeo, Netflix, and ESPN, records remotely for NPR, and travels with reality-documentary shows.