CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Alix Lambert, David McMahon
Garden Thieves Pictures
From 1997 to 2008, Ronald Dominique raped and killed 23 men in impoverished areas of Southeastern Louisiana. Amidst overwhelming darkness caused by the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina and an under-funded police department, Dominique crime spree went undiscovered for years.
How could a crime spree that claimed 23 lives seemingly go unnoticed by the national media?
Was it the region's sense of isolation, an observation made in the film by local reporter Robert Morris? Was it because these were poor men whose families were even rather detached from their disappearances? Was it because the killer himself was gay?
Co-directed by Alix Lambert and David McMahon, Bayou Blue delves unflinchingly into these murders and the communities in which they occurred by utilizing audio interviews of detectives with Dominique alongside a wealth of interviews of victims' families and local police and detectives who worked on the case yet somehow didn't discover the truth for years.
The film's most poignant, actually beyond heartbreaking, segments involve Ricky Wallace, the only known survivor of one of Dominique's attacks and the weight of that survival weighs heavily in Wallace's words and body language. Lambert and McMahon also do a stellar job of painting the Louisiana landscape, a landscape severely impacted by such natural disasters as the BP oil spill, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Rita. For an area that was already impoverished, these natural disasters proved particularly devastating. In a sense, it's hard not to wonder if that sense of weariness and devastation somehow numbed the area to even something as dramatic as the devastation caused by one man taking 23 lives.
Bayou Blue is an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking documentary, if not quite always a satisfying one given the directorial choice to be more observers to the stories unfolding than more intentional investigators. While Lambert and McMahon may not probe quite as deeply as one may hope, they do allow the film's darkness to envelope the proceedings and it's hard to watch the film without getting an almost mind-numbing sense of grief and loss. The directors interview four of the families impacted by Dominique, and it's particularly challenging to listen to Octavia Jones, whose family lost five members to Dominique.
For those interested in compelling historical docs and/or simply true crime stories, Bayou Blue may very well be a necessary addition to the DVD collection in that it tells a story that has gone far too untold. Picked up by Garden Thieves Pictures for a VOD and DVD release, Bayou Blue is a memorable film with words and images that will haunt you long after the closing credits have rolled.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic