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  • A New Orleans Vietnamese community fights a toxic post-Katrina landfill near their homes.

    A New Orleans Vietnamese community fights a toxic post-Katrina landfill near their homes.

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  • Young Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans East mobilized to help their community after Katrina

    Young Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans East mobilized to help their community after Katrina

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  • Hai Au Huynh and US Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao protesting outside of New Orleans City Hall , 2006

    Hai Au Huynh and US Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao protesting outside of New Orleans City Hall , 2006

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  • Mimi C. Nguyen, Father Luke Nguyen, and Versailles youth celebrate victory at the Chef Menteur Landfill protest, 2006

    Mimi C. Nguyen, Father Luke Nguyen, and Versailles youth celebrate victory at the Chef Menteur Landfill protest, 2006

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  • Father Vien Nguyen watches as young parishioners arrive at Church, 2009

    Father Vien Nguyen watches as young parishioners arrive at Church, 2009

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  • Community member holds up a “No Landfill” sign in front of Chef Menteur Landfill, 2006

    Community member holds up a “No Landfill” sign in front of Chef Menteur Landfill, 2006

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  • Versailles residents return to their neighborhood following Hurricane Katrina, 2005

    Versailles residents return to their neighborhood following Hurricane Katrina, 2005

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  • Attorney Joel Waltzer, 2009

    Attorney Joel Waltzer, 2009

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  • Versailles gardener takes a moment away from her work, 2006

    Versailles gardener takes a moment away from her work, 2006

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The Film

More than three decades ago, Vietnamese refugees began to settle in Versailles, a then-isolated community in eastern New Orleans. By the early 2000s, this working-class enclave was home to 8,000 residents. But although the community had accomplished material successes, it remained divided between older immigrants and American-born youth. Many Versailles residents felt like perpetual outsiders in greater New Orleans, ignored by the local government.

A Village Called Versailles is the incredible story of this little-known, tight-knit community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When the storm devastated New Orleans in August 2005, Versailles residents rebuilt their neighborhood faster than any other damaged neighborhood in the city, only to find themselves threatened by a new toxic landfill slated to open just two miles away. Forced out of Vietnam by the war 30 years ago, many residents felt their homes were being taken away from them once again.

By January 2006, more than half of the neighborhood has been rebuilt, financed by friends and family, with no help from FEMA. Community leaders put together an ambitious redevelopment plan for Versailles, including its own senior housing, a cultural center, and a community farm and market. But New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin exercised his emergency power to open Chef Menteur Landfill mere miles from Versailles for toxic debris disposal from Katrina — without getting an environmental impact study first.

Outraged, Versailles fought back. Residents protested at City Hall and crowded public hearings by the hundreds, making the Vietnamese community’s presence felt in New Orleans for the first time. As elders and youth fought side by side — chanting in English and Vietnamese — Versailles finally won a political voice.

The Filmmaker

  1. S. Leo ChiangProducer/Director