Iron Sharpens Iron
New film chronicles a Plaquemines Parish community’s struggles against racism, industrial encroachment, and extreme weather
Iron Sharpens Iron
Directed by John Richie
2022; 28 min.
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 in the WaterWays series directed by John Richie and produced by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 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, 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.
Resources for Community Screenings
As part of its commitment to fostering civil conversations around the challenges facing Louisiana’s coastal communities, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities has developed a discussion guide to accompany Iron Sharpens Iron. We invite all organizations to host community screenings of this important film.
Download Community Discussion Guide
About the Director
A director and producer who specializes in non-fiction media, John Richie has directed multiple films for the LEH’s WaterWays series, including the 2017 film Diversions. Richie 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.
About the WaterWays and Coastal Impacts Initiatives
Iron Sharpens Iron is the latest in the LEH’s WaterWays film series, which debuted in 2017 with four films documenting the issues facing Louisiana’s coast. The film is also 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.