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In 2005, the husband and wife film making team of Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes chronicled their road trip across 32 states to see how mom and pop shops were faring with the onslaught of big box stores. They ended up with the documentary Independent America (and the answer: not so great).
That first time out, the couple’s plans to visit New Orleans were derailed when they got caught up in the world of Wal-Mart. A month later Katrina hit. So, three years later, Hosein hit the road again (leaving his pregnant wife back in Seattle) to see just how small businesses were surviving in a post-Katrina New Orleans. The result is Independent America: Rising From the Ruins (and again, the answer: not so great).
“With the government flailing around” he told me, “small businesses came back first.” But the slow recovery and a sense of desperation spurred the government to shell out tax subsidies to big chain stores.
“New Orleans is the quintessential independent American town,” he explained. “There is a sense of place that was not overrun by corporate chains. But because of Katrina that’s drastically changed. New Orleans is in danger of becoming every town USA. Unique businesses can no longer afford to be there. What I know for certain is the city will not be what it was like again because of new the new retail landscape.”
Hosein is frantically finishing his edits in time for its August 30th world premiere in New Orleans, in time for the third anniversary of Katrina. And he’s hoping his follow up film, unlike the original will be picked up by a major distributor. “Local matters are mainstream now,” he says.