Casey Gerald is the author of the memoir There Will Be No Miracles Here. (March 2020)

NYR DAILY

Heat, Haunting & Heartache: A Young Filmmaker’s Louisiana

Braelyn Kelly as Jeremiah in Phillip Youmans's Burning Cane, 2019

The temperature is ninety degrees, with seventy-two percent humidity. Do you know how hot that feels? The National Weather Service tells us 107 degrees, warns that prolonged exposure or strenuous activity will put you in danger of serious illness. If you have not felt such stay-still heat, those facts may not mean much, and this line, perhaps the most important in Phillip Youmans’s first feature film, Burning Cane, may slip by you, as it comes not from an on-screen character but from a disembodied voice on the radio, between announcements for a blue crab sale and a lost dog search. It helps explain the hazy quality of Youmans’s haunting, brilliantly original drama, much as a jazz man once explained to me why New Orleans’s music sounds as it does: The people always been pushin’ up against the water.