When the cousin she is living with dies, Azema must depend on her only living relative, her uptight grandson John, to come from New York to Houston to move her into an old folks' home. But John has little interest in caring for his elderly Creole grandmother: He’s an experimental choreographer with a huge gig coming in eight weeks, and his work is stale and impersonal. Worse, his lover Derrick has AIDS. Resentful, John and Derrick leave their trendy, mid 1990s East Village for Azema’s down-home, southern slum.
The reunion between grandmother and the grandson she has not seen in decades is anything but warm and fuzzy. Azema dislikes her arrogant, gay grandson almost as much as he resents her. But deep down she recognizes that he’s nasty because he’s in pain; he’s afraid of losing Derrick. At Derrick’s prodding, Azema begins telling her life story. Before they know it, John and Derrick are entranced by her Louisiana Creole world of gumbo, zydeco, and bizarre fights over skin color. Eventually, Azema recalls an elaborate narrative chronicling her offbeat life with her Creole husband Jonah and her “too-dark” cousin Bommie. But all is not as it appears, as Grandma’s stories detour into mysterious secrets of murder, rape, and revenge in the Louisiana swamps.
Based on the true-life stories of Thelma and John Arceneaux and written by their grandson David Roussève, Urban Scenes/Creole Dreams blends postmodern dance, club music, and performance art with the now lost backwoods world of Creole bayous and mulatto women. Expanded from a work originally created for the stage, this is the story of a vegetarian, African American grandson and his blood sausage-cookin’ Creole grandmother who discover a common terrain in the only thing they share: loss. At the center of the film are Azema’s hilarious but ultimately tragic tales of love. Through their telling, a grandmother is released from the haunting secrets of her past, and her grandson learns to love again.
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