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9.02.2008

watch online: a village called versailles

I recently heard about A Village Called Versailles, S. Leo Chiang's documentary-in-progress about the inspiring rebuilding of the Vietnamese American community in post-Katrina New Orleans East. PBS' Frontline/WORLD has posted a 15-minute online version of the film here. Check it out.

As you probably know, last week marked the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There has been quite a bit of attention and scrutiny on the devastating effects of the storm on the Gulf Coast region, and the slow rebuilding process that has taken place over the years, but very little of it is ever focused on the 40,000 Vietnamese Americans in the area that were also affected by the storm.

A section of eastern New Orleans called "Versailles" is actually home to the most dense ethnically Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. Like the rest of the city, Versailles was devastated in the fall of 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed. Many Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans East were evacuated and dispersed.

However, just six weeks after the storm, the Versailles Vietnamese returned to begin rebuilding and quickly became a thriving community. Ironically, it was the flood and its aftermath that catalyzed the transformation of Versailles from an isolated ethnic refugee community into an integral part of New Orleans. What they've accomplished is truly inspiring.