It’s been 20 years since writer and actress Kasi Lemons made her directorial debut with the 1997 film “Eve’s Bayou.” Notable icons in Black American television and cinema such as Diahann Carroll, Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield and Debbi Morgan gave thrilling performances in this haunting drama about family, deceit, memory, and fate. A young Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good flexed their acting skills, proving their immense talent at an early age.
Set in the hot Louisiana summer of 1962, “Eve’s Bayou” unveils the dysfunction of the affluent Batiste family. The father, Louis Batiste (Jackson), is a prominent “colored” doctor who has the ability to “fix things,” except himself and his family. His wife, Roz (Whitfield), struggles with upholding their family’s “perfect” image while internally struggling with her husband’s constant infidelity. Louis and Roz’s eldest child, Cisely (Good) is a teenaged girl who is conflicted by her transition through puberty and her growing admiration for her father.
Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), who serves as the film’s narrator, is an inquisitive 10-year-old girl whose rose-colored glasses are crushed after witnessing her father’s affair with a married townswoman named Mrs. Mereaux. From that moment forward, Eve begins to question everything she’d previously known as her reality. She develops a close bond with her father’s sister, Aunt Mozelle (Morgan), a psychic counselor who is recently widowed for the third time. Eve’s thirst for truth and vengeance is deeply etched in memory, providing a complex look at the dynamics of the entire Batiste family.
I first watched segments of this film when I was 15-years-old. It wasn’t until this year that I took the time to watch the film in its entirety. I was blown away by the imagery, language and acting throughout the film. The opening line, spoken by Eve, “Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, other imprinted indelibly on the brain” resonates with me. Sometimes it’s hard to accept reality. We often lie to ourselves, purposely creating false narratives in our minds to make ourselves feel better. We know the truth but often run away from it for fear of disappointment, much like Cisely who tried to convince both herself and Eve that their father was not having an affair.
Another important concept that stood out was the Batiste’s ability to see others’ problem and their desire to “save” them. Louis Batiste was a charismatic (and rather egotistical) man whose job was to heal those in need. He prided himself on being the most well-respected colored doctor in town. However, he did not realize how his actions ultimately caused his own and his family’s demise.
Roz Batiste wanted to save her children from harm by being stern and overprotective, yet did not take the time to protect herself from the constant pain her husband caused. Mozelle Batiste had the gift of seeing the future of others but was “blind to her own life.” She could not save herself from the grief of losing her beloved husbands. Cisely was adamant about protecting her father from judgment, though she knew deep down he wasn’t the perfect man she wanted him to be. Eve was passionate about saving her big sister and unfortunately, her efforts caused even more despair.
Watching “Eve’s Bayou” made me evaluate my own life’s journey. I, too, struggle with accepting the realities of disappointment, heartache, and grief. I often immerse myself in the lives of others around me, hoping to help them resolve an issue while neglecting myself and my truth in the process. Twenty years after its release, the magic of “Eve’s Bayou” is still as profound as ever.
Destiny is an introverted, awkward Black girl who enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with family, advocating for Black girls and catching up on the latest celebrity gossip. Follower her on Facebook.