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Eve's Bayou

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Eve's Bayou
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKasi Lemmons
Written byKasi Lemmons
Produced byCaldecot Chubb
Samuel L. Jackson
Mark Amin
Nick Wechsler
CinematographyAmy Vincent
Edited byTerilyn A. Shropshire
Music byTerence Blanchard
Distributed byTrimark Pictures
Release dates
  • November 7, 1997 (1997-11-07) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
116 minutes (Director's Cut)[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3-4 million[2][3]
Box office$14.8 million[4]

Eve's Bayou is a 1997 American Southern Gothic drama film written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, who made her directorial debut with this film. Samuel L. Jackson served as a producer, and starred in the film with Lisa Nicole Carson, Jurnee Smollett, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Meagan Good and Diahann Carroll. The film premiered at the 1997 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in theaters on November 7, 1997. The film grossed $14 million domestically on a budget of $4 million, making it the most commercially successful independent film of 1997.[5][3]

In 2018, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[6][7][8] A 116-minute[1] director's cut of the film was made a part of The Criterion Collection on October 25, 2022.[9]


Eve Batiste, a 10-year-old girl, lives in a prosperous Creole-American community in Louisiana with her younger brother Poe and her older sister Cisely in the 1960s. Their parents are Roz and Louis, a well-respected doctor in Louisiana's African American community who claims descent from the French aristocrat who founded the town of Eve's Bayou. One night after a raucous party, Eve accidentally witnesses her father having sex with Matty Mereaux, a family friend. However, Cisely, who has a very affectionate relationship with her father, convinces Eve that she misinterpreted an innocent moment. The unreliability of memory and observation remain important themes throughout the film.

The summer quickly becomes a chaotic and stressful one for the Batiste family. Eve's relationship with her parents becomes more strained as she discovers more evidence of her father's serial infidelity. Cisely comes into conflict with both her sister and mother as she enters puberty and tries to navigate the difficult transition to adulthood, particularly with regard to her appearance and sexuality. Roz eventually begins to suspect her husband's infidelity, prompting conflict between the two as well.

Throughout the duration of the film, Eve often seeks refuge with her Aunt Mozelle, who works as a Hoodoo Practitioner with a neighborhood reputation as "The Black Widow". Eve, who also has the Spiritual gift of sight, has a premonitory dream shortly before an accident occurs, claiming Mozelle's third husband.

Mozelle's gift also brings her into direct conflict with Elzora, a fortune teller and possible witch with similar abilities. When asked for a reading by Roz, Elzora implies that an unexpected "solution" to her problem will arise, but to wait and look to her children in the meantime. When Mozelle grudgingly makes a similar request, Elzora forces her to look and address the truth she refuses to see. Meanwhile, Eve, frustrated by her father's infidelity, begins to act out, bringing her into conflict with the other members of her family. Cisely begins to behave strangely as well, isolating herself from the family after experiencing her first period.

Cisely later confides in Eve the secret behind her strange mood. She tells her that one night, after their parents had a vicious argument, Cisely went to comfort her father and he, while drunk, attempted to molest her. Enraged, Eve seeks out Elzora to commission a voodoo spell to put a fatal curse on her father. While on her way to visit the witch, Eve runs into Lenny Mereaux and questions him about his teaching job that keeps him away from home. In the conversation, she alludes to a possible tryst between his wife, Matty, and her father.

When Eve finally arrives to Elzora's home, she finds her to be not as scary as she expected but rather normal instead. While her expectation is to receive a voodoo doll of her father, she is simply told that the curse has been placed per her request. With regret, and in an attempt to save her father, Eve rushes to bring him home after finding him in a bar chatting with Matty Mereaux. At the same time, a drunken Lenny arrives to take Matty home. After a confrontation, Lenny and Matty leave the bar, and Lenny tells Louis that he will kill him if he talks to Matty again. After Louis says goodbye to Matty, Lenny shoots and kills Louis.

After her father's funeral, Eve soon finds a letter which her father wrote to Mozelle, disputing the accusations. In it, he claims that Cisely had come to him that night and kissed him, first as a daughter and then as a lover. In his drunken state, he reacted violently, slapping her and pushing her to the ground, which made her angry with him. Eve confronts Cisely and uses her second sight to discover what really happened. It ends with the sisters holding hands, gazing at the sunset.




Kasi Lemmons first wrote the screenplay in 1993.[10] Lemmons said the screenplay "originated as a series of short stories, and the children were the first layers in the short stories."[11] Lemmons was inspired by childhood trips she took to Louisiana, saying she "wanted to write a story about people who were like royalty in a small town. Louisiana has a unique history in the U.S. It was one of the only places where slaves could buy their freedom. Even in the 1700s, there were free people of color who had citizenship because the state was owned by the French."[3]

Though the story is not autobiographical, Lemmons said "there are definitely pieces of my family in it",[10] and that the writing process was therapeutic, as it allowed her to process "things that happened to me—things that I was still wrestling with...At the core of Eve, it’s me and my childhood and wrestling with how powerful I was as a child. How did I fight my way through uncomfortable situations and the distress that I felt?”[11]

When Lemmons and producer Caldecot Chubb could not find interest from studios to finance the film or potential directors to helm the production, Lemmons decided to direct it herself.[10] After reading the script, Samuel L. Jackson came on board as both a producer and lead actor.[5][12] Jackson said, "Louis Batiste was definitely someone I hadn't seen before. A family man with interesting conflicts and a romantic and glamorous life. I don't get to play those kinds of guys."[10] In 1996, the independent company Trimark Pictures agreed to finance the film.[10]


Lemmons had known many of the film's principal actors from her days acting in New York theatre.[10] Meagan Good was originally cast as 10-year-old Eve Batiste, but by the time the film's financing came together, Good had grown out of the role and was instead cast as Eve's older sister Cisely.[3]


Filming took place in the fall of 1996 in Covington and Madisonville in Louisiana.[10][3] The Otis House at Fairview-Riverside State Park was used as the Batiste family estate.[3]


The film received positive reviews, with the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert naming it the best film of 1997.[13][14][15] CNN's Paul Tatara,[16] Empire,[17] Entertainment Weekly,[18] the Los Angeles Times,[19] The New York Observer,[20] The New York Times,[21] Time,[22] Variety,[23] and The Washington Post[24] also enthusiastically praised the film and its performances.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83% based on 129 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Eve's Bayou marks a striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, layering terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness."[25]

In a 2017 retrospective essay for Vulture, Angelica Jade Bastién wrote, "The film operates deftly on multiple levels: It’s a stunning coming-of-age tale (an exceedingly rare example of one that privileges the experience of young black girls); an honest, hyperspecific portrait of black life in rural Louisiana; and one of the greatest writer-director debuts in American cinematic history."[26]

The film received multiple accolades, including Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards and Outstanding Directorial Debut for Kasi Lemmons from the National Board of Review Awards.[27][28] Debbi Morgan's performance would be her most honored film role to date, with awards for Best Supporting Actress from the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[29] and the Independent Spirit Awards,[27] alongside four other nominations. The film is also seen as a breakthrough for Jurnee Smollett; up to that point, she had primarily worked as a TV actress.[30] For her performance, Smollett won a Critics' Choice Award[31] and a San Diego Film Critics Society Award.


In February 2008, Eve's Bayou made Time's list of the "25 Most Important Films on Race".[32]

On February 22, 2009, Debbi Morgan's portrayal of Mozelle Batiste Delacroix was included in PopMatters' 100 Essential Female Film Performances list.[33]

In 2012, Jurnee Smollett's role as Eve Batiste was included in Essence's 25 Best Roles for Black Actresses list.[34]


1997 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[31]

1997 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[29]

1997 National Board of Review Awards[28]

1997 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Supporting Actress – Jurnee Smollett (winner)

1998 Acapulco Black Film Festival[35]

  • Best Actor – Samuel L. Jackson (winner)
  • Best Director – Kasi Lemmons (winner)
  • Best Film (winner)
  • Best Soundtrack (nominated)

1998 Independent Spirit Awards[27]

  • Best First Feature – Caldecot Chubb, Kasi Lemmons, Samuel L. Jackson (winner)
  • Best Supporting Female – Debbi Morgan (winner)

1998 NAACP Image Awards[3]

  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Samuel L. Jackson (nominated)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture – Lynn Whitfield (nominated)
  • Outstanding Motion Picture (nominated)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Vondie Curtis-Hall (nominated)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Debbi Morgan (nominated)
  • Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress – Jurnee Smollett (nominated)
  • Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress – Meagan Good (nominated)

1998 Satellite Awards[36]

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Drama) – Samuel L. Jackson (nominated)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Drama) – Debbi Morgan (nominated)
  • Outstanding Cinematography – Amy Vincent (nominated)

1998 Young Artist Awards[37]

  • Best Performance in a Feature Film (Leading Young Actress) – Jurnee Smollett (nominated)

1998 YoungStar Awards[38]

  • Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Drama Film – Jurnee Smollett (nominated)
  • Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Drama Film – Meagan Good (nominated)


  1. ^ a b "Eve's Bayou: Director's Cut". Toronto International Film Festival.
  2. ^ Jackson, Samuel L. (January 22, 1998). "Samuel L. Jackson — Charlie Rose (quote at 10:54)" (Interview). Interviewed by Charlie Rose. Retrieved April 21, 2019. I was a big enough name to get three million dollars to get it made. And that's what we made it for. Three million dollars? Three million dollars, yeah.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "AFI Movie Club: EVE'S BAYOU". American Film Institute. June 8, 2020. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  4. ^ "Eve's Bayou". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Hornaday, Ann (February 6, 1998). "'97 Opens a New Frame of Reference". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 25, 2022.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (December 12, 2018). "'Jurassic Park,' 'The Shining' and 'Cinderella' Among Movies Chosen for National Film Registry". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "National Film Registry Turns 30". Library of Congress. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  9. ^ "Eve's Bayou". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Winters, Laura (November 2, 1997). "On the 'Eve' of a Breakthrough". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Tinubu, Aramide A. (February 15, 2019). "'Eve's Bayou' 22 Years Later: Filmmaker Kasi Lemmons Reflects On Her Classic Film". Shadow and Act. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  12. ^ "Out of the Archives: Samuel L. Jackson on "Eve's Bayou"". Golden Globe Awards. May 24, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 31, 1997). "The Best 10 Movies of 1997". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  14. ^ "The Best Films of 1997". January 3, 1998. Siskel & Ebert & the Movies. Season 12. Episode 18. ABC.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 7, 1997). "Eve's Bayou". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 25, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2011 – via RogerEbert.com.
  16. ^ Tatara, Paul (November 11, 1997). "Review: 'Eve's Bayou' a dreamscape of sex and tragedy". CNN. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  17. ^ Errigo, Angie. "Eve's Bayou Review". Empire. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  18. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (November 7, 1997). "Movie Review: 'Eve's Bayou'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  19. ^ Thomas, Kevin (November 7, 1997). "Eve's Bayou". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  20. ^ Sarris, Andrew (January 12, 1998). "1997's Best in Film: From L.A. Confidential to Eve's Bayou to Kolya". New York Observer. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  21. ^ Holden, Stephen (November 7, 1997). "Film Review; A Touch of Voodoo in a Steamy Eden". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  22. ^ Corliss, Richard (October 13, 1997). "Getting Down to Family Matters". Time. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  23. ^ Levy, Emanuel (September 13, 1997). "Eve's Bayou". Variety. Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  24. ^ Thomson, Desson (November 7, 1997). "All About 'Eve'". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  25. ^ "Eve's Bayou Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 10, 2023.
  26. ^ Bastién, Angelica Jade (November 16, 2017). "20 Years Later, Eve's Bayou Is Still a Stunning Portrait of Black American Life". Vulture. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  27. ^ a b c "The 1998 Independent Spirit Awards: Reactions and Responses…". IndieWire. March 22, 1998. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  28. ^ a b "1997 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  29. ^ a b "1997 - Winners Of The 10th Annual Chicago Film Critics Awards". chicagofilmcritics.org. January 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  30. ^ Avery, Jaha Nailah (September 5, 2022). "As It Nears 25, Eve's Bayou Is Still Radical—And Wonderful". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  31. ^ a b "The 3rd Critics' Choice Awards Winners and Nominees". bfca.org. Archived from the original on December 12, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  32. ^ Corliss, Richard (February 4, 2008). "Eve's Bayou (1997) – The 25 Most Important Films on Race". Time. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  33. ^ "100 Essential Female Film Performances". PopMatters. February 22, 2009. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  34. ^ "25 Best Roles for Black Actresses". Essence. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  35. ^ "Eve's Bayou - Miscellaneous Notes". Turner Classic Movie Database. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  36. ^ "1998 2nd Annual SATELLITE™ Awards". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on December 3, 2007. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  37. ^ "19th Youth In Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  38. ^ "Nominations for the 3rd Annual Hollywood Reporter YoungStar Awards". Entertainment Wire. September 17, 1998. Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2022 – via The Free Library.

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