Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Rated R

Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Lynn Whitfield, Samuel L. Jackson and Debbi Morgan

Rated: R Drama

Set in 1962 Eve’s Bayou is centered upon the life of ten-year-old Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett) and her family in Louisiana.  The child of an affluent, Creole American family, Eve’s parents are Louis Batiste (Samuel L. Jackson), a physician, and Roz (Lynn Whitfield), a socialite; her siblings are Cisely (Meagan Good), her older sister, and Poe (Smollett’s real-life brother, Jake Smollett), her younger brother. 

Rounding out the family is Mozelle Batiste Delacroix (Debbi Morgan), the sister of Louis; widowed three times, she has the ability to be psychic and see the future of others but not her own.  Part of the affluence of the Batiste family stems from their ancestral ties to the wealthy French founder of their community.  His life was saved by an enslaved African woman, also named Eve, and for her act, she and her sixteen children were given their freedom.

The events in this film occur primarily during the span of one summer.  Eve lives a very privileged life and is dearly loved by her, seemingly, perfect family.  However, when she accidently observes her father being intimate with another woman, Mrs. Matty Mereaux, (Lisa Nicole Carson), Eve is devastated.  Mereaux is a friend of her family and married to Lenny Mereaux (Roger Gueneuver Smith), a local schoolteacher.  When she confides to her sister what she saw, Cisely attempts to convince Eve differently.

As Eve sees more of her father in the realistic light of being a philanderer, the veil of her family’s happiness and stability is being harshly removed.  Adding to the crashing of her former life is her mother’s insistence of the normalcy they previously had; her sister’s devastation of entering puberty; and her aunt’s divulgence of “second sight” being hereditary, cementing for Eve that she indeed saw her father having an affair.  Before long, lies are told, secrets are uncovered and Eve seeks the guidance of Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a voodoo priestess for resolution.  Can a young girl save her family, even from itself?  You’ll have to see!

Eve’s Bayou received critical acclaim and was even named the best film of that year by Roger Ebert.  In his review for his site, the esteemed film critic gushed that the film, “resonates in the memory.  It called me back for a second and third viewing.  If it is not nominated for Academy Awards, then the Academy is not paying attention.  For the viewer, it is a reminder that sometimes films can venture into the realms of poetry and dreams.”

Featuring crisp narration by Tamara Tunie, gorgeous music by Terence Blanchard and lush photography by Amy Vincent, this Kasi Lemmons written-&-directed film was nominated for seventeen awards, of which it won twelve.  Rated for Time by Richard Corliss in 2008 as one of “The 25 Most Important Films on Race”, the awards that Eve’s Bayou won included for “Outstanding Directorial Debut” – Kasi Lemmons by the National Board of Reviews (1997); “Best Supporting Actress” – Jurnee Smollett by the San Diego Film Critics Society (1997) and “Best Supporting Actress” – Debbi Morgan by the Chicago Film Critics Association (1997).  Eve’s Bayou also was awarded “Best Director” – Kasi Lemmons, “Best Actor” – Samuel L. Jackson and “Best Film” by the Acapulco Black Film Festival (1998).

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