Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek

When the graves of former slaves are bulldozed, a man returns to protect the community from urban sprawl, hurricanes, and man-made disaster.

America ReFramed
Premiere Date
April 29, 2014
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call

Leah Mahan

Leah Mahan is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work has been nominated by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. Mahan's film Sweet Old Song (2002) was featured on the PBS series P.O.V. and was selected by film critic Roger Ebert to be screened at his Overlooked Film Festival (“Ebertfest”). She spent a dozen Show more years making Come Hell or High Water and was invited to work on the rough cut at the Sundance Institute Documentary Editing and Story Lab. Her first film was Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street. Aside from ITVS, Mahan’s work has been supported by the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, Ford Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Show less

Other ITVS Films
Skin of Glass
Sweet Old Song

Jane Greenberg

Jane Greenberg has been working on social issue documentary films since 1996. Much of her work has been broadcast on national public television, including two programs she co-produced: Butte, America, the Saga of a Hard Rock Mining Town (Independent Lens) and Fenceline: A Company Town Divided (P.O.V.) She has associate-produced a number of Show more high-profile documentaries, including the Emmy Award-winning School Prayer: A Community at War. Come Hell or High Water is the first feature documentary she edited. Greenberg continues to freelance and work on her own projects, including Standards of Decency, the story of a mentally retarded man on Mississippi’s death row, which received a Sundance Documentary Fund grant. Show less

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The Film

Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors — former slaves who settled on the Gulf Coast in the 1860s — are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport.

Filmed in an intimate verité style, the story begins when Derrick returns to Mississippi for the holidays in December 2001. He and filmmaker Leah Mahan, a friend from Boston, have made the trip to record oral history. But a visit to the community cemetery with nonagenarian Eva Skinner changes the course of Derrick’s life. Derrick resolves to do what he can to help protect Turkey Creek, moving home to Mississippi to join residents as they attempt to stop a development that would fill hundreds of acres in the watershed.

Over the course of a decade, Derrick and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals that include Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.