Planetary Bayou is a film about a slow-moving, shallow, muddy creek in Texas that has changed the course of life on Earth, as it has mutated during its flow through the most concentrated petrochemical complex in the world.
Seen as a built environment, Houston is a chaotic and confounding megacity. What makes it appealing as a subject of inquiry is its singular status as the petrochemical capital of the world and the impact that its oil refining, storage, disposal, and manufacturing has had on global climates. By extension, this city affects all life on Earth today and for every imaginable tomorrow. This film examines these histories and futures by way of an expansive investigation of the cultures and environments across deep time, into and out of Houston and the Gulf Coast region, along a key feature on the landscape: the Buffalo Bayou. From its source as a ditch in a field, to an industrialized ship canal, lined by hundreds of petrochemical plants, and into the Gulf of Mexico, where snaking pipelines leak crude across abyssal plains, this unassuming bayou is arguably the most important waterway in the world.
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