(Investigative Documentary Short - 39 minutes)
The high cancer rates became town folklore in Juliette, Ga. Neighbors saw homes demolished, wells filled with concrete, and padlocks with the power company logo on the property gates. The 40-minute investigative documentary Saving Juliette follows residents soon after they’ve learned that their drinking water is contaminated by a leaking coal ash pond at the local power plant - the largest coal-fired power plant in the US. The residents around the plant don’t have access to city or county water lines. They’ve relied on water from their wells for decades.
This film takes viewers into intimate moments in people's kitchens and heated community meetings in Churches, as residents share their own health issues and fears around the polluted water.
“Saving Juliette” is a story of what happens when people galvanize their community, question their political leanings, and work to hold their representatives accountable, all in an effort to answer a question asked in the film by Juliette resident Gloria Hammond: “Will it ever be good water again?”
After hearing the rumors of contaminated water in Juliette soon after moving to middle Georgia, I decided to see it for myself. I was invited to community meeting about the water issues. Without knowing what it might become, I brought my camera. I was floored. The small church was packed to the brim. Rows of people standing in the back and along the sides. The emotions were palpable as residents were beginning to question whether the high rates of cancer were related to the contaminated water they had been drinking. After the meeting I approached each resident that had asked a question to set up follow up interviews. By the time I called them to confirm the interview less than a week later, a handful were unable to talk. They had signed non-disclosure agreements or were nervous about repercussions because they or their family members were employed at Georgia Power. In that same meeting, I met residents that shared that they were unable to keep pets alive and it felt like almost everyone at least knew someone in the community that had passed of cancer. I met families that had recently moved to Juliette and were worried about their young kids that had been drinking the water for years.
I spent a year making this film because there needed to be a public record. I was inspired by the activism of the residents in Juliette and felt their experience needed to be captured. As a filmmaker from Georgia, I moved back to the South to tell stories in my own backyard. I began this film when I was pregnant. I carried gear and audio equipment well into my third trimester. I edited this film during many late nates with my newborn. This film was a labor of love.
Directed by Evey Wilson Wetherbee
Produced by Evey Wilson Wetherbee and Grant Blankenship
Edited by Evey Wilson Wetherbee
Cinematography by Evey Wilson Wetherbee and Grant Blankenship
Drone Footage by Jenna Eason
Music by Michael FK
Color by Jesse Jung
Supported by Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Mercer University
June 18, 2021 - Premiered at the Grand Opera House in downtown Macon
August 2021 - Macon Film Festival - Awarded Audience Choice Award
September 2021 - Full Bloom Festival - Awarded Best Short Documentary
October 2021 - Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
October 2021 - Virginia Film Festival
October 2021 - Screening and discussion at Georgia College - Co-sponsored by the Dept. of English-Film—Media, and Culture, College of Arts & Sciences, Dept. of Biological & Environmental Sciences, & the Rural Studies Institute
February 2022 - Colorado Environmental Film Festival
April 2022 - American Conservation Film Festival - Awarded Best Short Documentary