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Premiere of New LEH-produced Documentary June 8

Premiere of Iron Sharpens Iron, a new documentary by filmmaker John Richie and produced by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
7 p.m.
The Broad Theater, 636 N Broad St. in New Orleans
Tickets are $12. 

This event is sold out.

Ironton, Louisiana, located in Plaquemines Parish, traces its history back to emancipation, with many of the community’s founders having once been enslaved at nearby St. Rosalie Plantation. Their descendants have remained in the area, maintaining a community despite decades of racial segregation and economic injustice. Iron Sharpens Iron, a new documentary set to premiere Wednesday, June 8, at The Broad Theater, captures Ironton’s struggles against racism, industrial encroachment, and extreme weather.

About the film

Directed by independent filmmaker John Richie and produced by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Iron Sharpens Iron chronicles Ironton’s fight against the development of the Plaquemines Liquids Terminal (PLT) atop land that includes the community’s ancestral burial grounds, as well as the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ida.

The people of Ironton have felt the effects of racial segregation and economic injustice acutely—the community was denied running water into the 1980s, and it has been left outside the levee system that protects so many in southeast Louisiana. In August 2021, Hurricane Ida sent 12 to 15 feet of water into Ironton. Confronted with the storm’s aftermath on top of local resistance, the PLT project was scrapped.

Richie traveled to Ironton before and after Ida’s onslaught, recording local takes on the community’s history, the plans for the PLT, and the storm’s devastation. These residents, speaking for themselves, form the core of the project. Iron Sharpens Iron captures a Louisiana community at a pivotal moment in its history, one that nonetheless looks like much of its past: discounted and unaided, it endures.

A director and producer who specializes in non-fiction media, Richie has directed multiple films for the LEH’s WaterWays series, a multiyear initiative documenting the issues facing Louisiana’s coast. He was also a producer on BET’s Boiling Point, a six-part docuseries which examines systemic racism through the lens of current historical events, and directed and produced Shell Shocked and 91%, feature-length documentaries on gun violence in the United States.

Iron Sharpens Iron is part of the LEH initiative “Coastal Impacts: An Integrated Approach for Community Adaptation, Understanding and Planning,” which assists local communities in building intergenerational coastal literacy through community conversations around books, film, and exhibitions, fostering greater understanding of and support for coastal restoration projects.

About the event

The LEH will host a premiere event at The Broad Theater, 636 N Broad St. in New Orleans, on Wednesday, June 8, at 7 p.m. The event will feature a screening of the film, which runs 27 minutes, followed by a panel discussion about the challenges faced by communities like Ironton across south Louisiana.

The discussion will include filmmaker John Richie and environmental activists Sharon Lavigne and Rose Jackson in a conversation moderated by independent producer Weenta Girmay.

Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James, is the daughter of civil rights activists and worked as a special education teacher until deciding to dedicate herself full-time to working for environmental justice in St. James Parish. RISE St. James is a faith-based, grassroots environmental organization that started with a meeting in her living room with 10 community members and her daughter taking notes. Now, she manages a small staff and some 20 volunteers.

Jackson grew up in Ironton and has been a lifelong member of the community. She is a board member of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a community-based organization that works to resolve the unique environmental struggles present in Louisiana.

Girmay is an Eritrean-American documentary film producer based in New Orleans. She owns and operates Weenta Productions, a full service video production company. Her past work as a producer has been supported by Tribeca Film Institute, featured on NPR, and selected to screen at the New Orleans Film Festival.

The premiere event is open to the public, and tickets are $12, with all proceeds benefitting the community of Ironton. Refreshments will be available for purchase. More information about the film and event is available at

This event is sold out.