Released on this day, November 7, 1997, “Eve’s Bayou” has become a contemporary classic in Black cinema.
Directed by Kasi Lemmons and set in the early 1960s in Louisiana, the film is primarily a family drama. It also has the distinction of being about a specific place that wasn’t absorbed into the Civil Rights and Black Power movements that were picking up steam across the country around that time.
With all of their secrets and betrayals, the affluent Batiste family is far from perfect; although in an early scene, the mother of the philandering Dr. Louis Batiste (played by Samuel L. Jackson) says that all of the women in the community act like he’s the Second Coming. And it’s true.
This 109-minute film, which was nominated for seven Image Awards, features some of the most tastefully done risqué scenes that I’ve come across in contemporary African-American cinema.
Though the film has a marquee cast that includes Jackson, Debbi Morgan and Lynn Whitfield — and let’s not forget the very young and adorable Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Meagan Good — no one rests on their laurels. Diahann Carroll, only appearing in a few scenes, gives a standout performance portraying a witch (a very different role from her typical ones as bejeweled and fashion-forward leading ladies).
Although it wasn’t a box office hit at the time of its theatrical release (grossing around $14.8 million, or about $22 million in today’s money), the film went on to become a black cinema classic, routinely appearing on top lists of the best in modern black cinema. It’s also been the subject of numerous critical essays and analyses.
“Eve’s Bayou” is available on various home video platforms.
What are your favorite film(s) featuring any of the cast members from “Eve’s Bayou”?
Here’s a trailer for the film: