For eighty years, the Deutsches Haus served as the hub of everything German in New Orleans. Founded in the grim years following World War I, the club operated in Mid-City, a working-class neighborhood that was also home to the city's famous Dixie and Falstaff breweries. It had survived some lean years during World War II, and the general decline of the neighborhood around it, but when Katrina hit, the club's historic Mid-City home was all but destroyed.
That's when the members pulled together to rebuild the Haus better than it had ever been. Even though their own homes destroyed, they pulled together to reopen the club for Oktoberfest, 2006. Though it had been fifteen months since the storm, the rebuilding of the club had been a remarkable feat, particularly as the rest of the city continued to struggle with its rebuilding. Yet the Haus had become a symbol of renewal, and offered New Orleanians a hopeful moment for a city in need of victories. Indeed, the club seemed to be leading the way to a revitalization of Lower Mid-City itself, With the neighborhood coming back better than it had been in a long time. Homes that had been abandoned or blighted even before 'the storm' were now being renovated and occupied by people who had rediscovered the area and its convenient proximity to downtown.
But even as the volunteers worked, the city announced plans for a massive hospital complex, a project that targeted Lower Mid-City, an area many viewed as being too blighted to save. The project offered the promise of economic revitalization, and few could argue that the city was not in need of both a new hospital and the stimulus that its construction would create. Yet the State of Louisiana was ultimately unable to accommodate the Deutsches Haus into its plan, despite the club's success at rebuilding. Its newly renovated and historic clubhouse would have to be bulldozed with the rest of the neighborhood.
Edited from over fifteen hours of interviews and nearly as many hours of live footage, This Haus of Memories follows the club's member volunteers as they remember the past, prepare for their last Oktoberfest, and contemplate an uncertain future. It is a story about the power of community and the tough choices faced by the residents of New Orleans as they try to rebuild their city in the wake of one of the greatest disasters to befall a major American city.
This Haus of Memories is Justin Nystrom's first film.
This film was shot entirely with a Canon EOS Rebel T1i in 720p/30. To override the auto settings of this basic camera, vintage Pentax lenses with manual settings enabled more creative control. Interviews shot primarily with the Pentax Super Takumar 55/1.8. Audio Recorded with Zoom H4n. Edited in FCP7. Audio synchronized with PluralEyes.