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Synopsis: Sapelo is a documentary that journeys within a unique American island to tell the story of its matriarchal griot, Cornelia Walker Bailey, and her adopted sons coming of age in the last remaining enclave of the Saltwater Geechee people.



Run Time

91 minutes

Directed by

Nick Brandestini

Director's Statement

The valuable experience I’ve gained through meeting and getting to know the residents of Darwin, California and Barrow, Alaska – the centers of my first two feature-length documentary films (“Darwin” and “Children of the Arctic”) – fueled my interest in people who live in remote and widely unknown American communities.

While traveling through the American South for inspiration for my third project, the idea for “Sapelo” started to take shape after visiting the Geechee Kunda Center in Riceboro, Georgia. There, I got into a conversation with the founder of the place, Jim Bacote, who asked me if I was familiar with Sapelo Island and the Saltwater Geechee people, a branch of the unique Gullah-Geechee culture. He kindly arranged a trip for me to visit Sapelo, which is only reachable by ferry. There I would be granted an introduction to Hog Hammock, the last remaining enclave of the Saltwater Geechees, and its matriarch, Cornelia Walker Bailey.

I am proud and humbled by Cornelia’s support and collaboration. Soon, my previous collaborators Taylor Segrest (co-director, writer) and Michael Brook (music) came on board to create what eventually became ”Sapelo”.

It was also an incredible honor to work with acclaimed audiobook narrator and actress Bahni Turpin (“Daughters of the Dust” – Sundance 1991) for this project.

Production Year


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