“Canadaville, USA” is ultimately a story about the triumph of the human spirit and compassion.
— Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press
On August 29, 2005, Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach watches on his TV as water and chaos raged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Shocked to see abandoned victims fend for themselves, while FEMA fumbled over red tape, he decides to command a private rescue operation. Stronach, chairman of the Magna International auto-parts empire, begins by whisking hundreds of New Orleans residents to safety. Then with a purchase of an 800-acre plot of land in sleepy Louisiana bayou country, he lays the foundations for a bold $7 million social experiment.
With five years free rent and the aim to produce the “best organic food in America,” Stronach gives 300 evacuees a fresh start and a chance to escape the vicious cycle of poverty that controlled their lives long before Katrina hit. Grateful for the effort, commitment and volunteer work that Canadians contribute, the evacuees affectionately name their community Canadaville.
But Stronach and his team are not prepared for the problems the residents face. Many are evacuees from the poorest, crime-ridden districts of New Orleans. Some have brought the old demons of addiction, abuse and violence that they suffered back home. Most are also dealing with post-traumatic stress. And now they are living in bucolic rural Louisiana, far from everything they’ve known.
To complicate matters, Canadaville is in a region plagued with unemployment, and their neighbours in Simmesport do not welcome this influx of new residents with their big-city problems.
Shot over two-years, Canadaville, USA is produced by the only film team to be given full and unparalleled access to the community. Told primarily through the residents’ stories and struggles, this compelling and moving documentary focuses on the survivor’s long road to recovery.