Directors Alix Lambert and David McMahon begin their documentary with beauty shots of the Louisiana gulf community of Houma, a rural and swampy area, portrayed though in a bright and almost pastoral light. Yet, there's an emptiness to these shots, literally and figuratively. The frames are devoid of people, and, as the interviews and the voices of those who live there are heard, an overall sense is conveyed of a loss of community.
One of the main techniques that Lambert and McMahon use is the disembodied voice. Like AJ Schnack in Kurt Cobain About a Son, an audio recording of the central subject is played in this movie without us ever seeing that central subject. That audio is laid over shots of the places the subject describes. There are no Errol Morris-style re-creations. It's basically people-less frames, otherwise empty but supplemented with the audio of the voice as a haunting narrator.
As the story unfolds, that haunting voice serves three functions or takes on three roles, and how Lambert and McMahon change that voice's function or its role is subtle and insidious. At first, we don't know to whom the voice belongs. It's random but uneasy. As the movie goes along, one assumes it's the voice of one kind of person but by the end it's shocking to realize that it's the voice of someone else entirely.
Even though documentaries are supposed to be visual, the way Lambert and McMahon use and play with the audio is clever, if not brilliant. Without being explicit or hitting us over the head, the filmmakers also spotlight a case and area of homophobia, racism and classism that is probably the worst co-mingling of all three that one could find.
23 men were murdered over the course of ten years. Because of the nature of the crimes, that of man-on-man rape, and because of who the men are, most being poor, drug users, troubled with the law and/or gay, law enforcement and the media ignored the cases or didn't care enough to really pursue them. The filmmakers really get that across. Not only is Bayou Blue haunting, it's also damning.
Five Stars out of Five. Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences. Running Time: 1 hr. and 18 mins.