The Unbelievers: Burnell Cotlon

2018 Young Director Award – Gold Screen (Changing the World Frame by Frame)
2017 One Screen – Best Documentary
2017 Great Big Story Awards – “Story that Inspires Hope” Award
2017 Hatch Awards – Best Use of Branded Content (Silver)

In the wake of Katrina, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward was one of the few neighborhoods where relief came slowly. Less than 25% of its pre-Katrina population has returned and many houses have been abandoned or mowed down. As a result, the USDA officially listed the neighborhood as a “food desert”, defined as urban areas without access to affordable food in a five-mile radius.

Burnell Cotlon returned to his home neighborhood in 2007 and was dismayed by what he saw. He pleaded with major chain stores to open up in the Ward, but the ongoing reconstruction and slow repopulation kept them away.

Cotlon decided he’d open up his own shops and restore the community one small business at a time. He learned carpentry and electrical work through YouTube videos so that he could build all his operations on a budget. To date, he’s opened a grocery store, a market, a barbershop, and a laundromat all in an effort to centralize and revitalize pride for the Ward.

Director: Henry Busby
Agency: Tribeca Studios
Client: Bai
Production Company: Voyager
Executive Producer: Andrew Hutcheson
Head of Production: David Brickel
Producer: Amalia Bradstreet
DP: Kelly Jeffrey
Steadicam: Chad Chamberlain
Drone Operator: Atmosphere Aerial
1st AC: Zachary Kertesz
Camera PA: Sophia Stevenson
Grip: Justin Crawford
Sound Mixer: Tim Connor
PA: Toby David
Editor: Henry Busby
Audio Post: One Thousand Birds
Audio Post Producer: Kira MacKnight
Sound Mixer: Calvin Pia
Original Music: Hyperballad
Composer: Jonathan Benedict

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