The Island of Saint Matthews is a 16mm feature film about the loss of family history in the form of heirlooms and photographs and the impact of a natural disaster on the past and present memories and rituals of a community.
Years ago filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson asked his aunt about old family photographs. Her reply—that “we lost them in the flood” was the catalyst for this film, a poem and paean to the citizens of Westport, just west of Columbus, Mississippi, the hometown of the filmmaker's parents.
Residents, young and old, are here seen and heard reminiscing about the 1973 flood of the Tombigbee River. The film combines these interviews and conversations, filmed in front of a church, at a beauty school, on porches and backyards, with sequences of a water-skier on the Tombigbee River; a worker at the lock and dam; a young couple meeting with an insurance agent about flood insurance. The sound of a church bell—an original bronze sculpture made by the filmmaker and similar to the bell used to warn residents of an impending natural disaster—intones throughout, interspersed with a spare, elegiac score.