A Crime on the Bayou


It is Freedom Summer, 1966, on the sweltering Louisiana bayou. In Plaquemines Parish, a young Black fisherman, Gary Duncan, sees some white boys picking on his teenage cousins outside a newly integrated high school. Diffusing the tension, he gently lays his hand on a white boy's arm. The boy recoils like a snake. That night, police burst into Duncan's trailer and arrest Gary, changing his life forever. A young Jewish lawyer, Richard Sobol, left an exclusive east coast firm to be mentored by lawyers in the most radical Black law office in New Orleans. Richard agrees to defend Gary, moved by the young man's bravery. Although it's a minor crime, Plaquemines Parish is controlled by the despotic Leander Perez, the cigar-puffing D.A. who uses the law to run the Parish as his personal fiefdom, upholding segregation and white supremacy. Arresting men like Duncan keeps Blacks in their place and challenging him is very dangerous. Defying numerous arrests and risks to their lives and livelihoods, Gary and Richard keep fighting, appealing the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Duncan v. Louisiana becomes an integral step toward more just trials across the country.


Gary Duncan, Richard Sobol, Lolis Eric Elie, Robert A. Collins, Armand Derfner

directed by

Nancy Buirski

director's bio

Nancy Buirski founded and ran the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival from 1997 to 2008. Her three films, "The Loving Story" (2011), "The Rape of Recy Taylor" (2017) and "A Crime on The Bayou" (2020) form a documentary trilogy addressing historic roots of racism and the brave voices who fought against it.


Nancy Buirski


Susan Margolin, Claire Chandler


92 minutes




Feature Documentary


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