THE CAJUN NAVY (2019, doc)

 Greetings again from the darkness. Powerful hurricanes that make landfall cause massive property damage and create numerous personal tragedies. The government has a system in place to provide after-the-fact assistance, but the immediacy of the storm first hitting typically falls on the shoulders of those locally.

The Discovery Channel and Documentarian James Newton bring us the story of The Cajun Navy, a group of volunteers who respond immediately as storms hit, in hopes of rescuing those caught in life-threatening situations. Based in Louisiana, most of these folks are Hurricane Katrina (2005) survivors, and they are quick to hook up their bass boats and shallow crafts, and head directly to the most dangerous spots.

Much of the film is structured around the group as they provide assistance in Wilmington, North Carolina right after Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018. The footage is frightening and spectacular as these folks look to find those “caught” by fast rising flood waters, or those unable to help themselves. There is a particularly poignant sequence where the group is evacuating a nursing home, despite the home’s director’s insistence that they don’t have the authority. The efforts and energy of these volunteers is focused on saving lives and helping those in need … not in following all of the rules.

We get up close and personal with some of the volunteers and see some of the situations they deal with. One admits to feeling like he’s in a hostage negotiation as a lady adamantly refuses to leave her home, even as the flood waters rise up to her porch. The comments from the volunteers convey their attitude. One admits, we’ve “really never done anything until you’ve helped someone who can’t pay you back.”

The Cajun Navy may have funny accents, and their cigarettes and cigars are as ever-present as their courage and desire to help. They caution that hurricanes offer “more ways to lose your life than you can count.” The group is credited with rescuing more than 15,000 people, and three weeks after the work on Florence was wrapped, they were hitting the road again as mammoth storm Hurricane Michael reached land. Anyone with a boat is encouraged to help, but it’s the size of the heart in these folks that makes all the difference.

Discovery Channel – Facebook sneak peek:

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