Christian D’Andrea is no stranger to Biloxi. He’s been to the Coast numerous times as one of the creators of The Weather Channel series “Hurricane Hunters.”
“I created, directed and produced the show ‘Hurricane Hunters,’ so I spent two years flying in and out with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keelser Air Force Base,” D’Andrea said. “I was at Keesler a lot, so much in fact, that I made a lot of friends there.”
He said he was visiting the Coast when he decided to pursue his passion for “shunpiking,” or taking the less traveled roads over major interstates and highways.
“It means ‘shunning the turnpike’ and it’s a family tradition of ours,” D’Andrea said. “It means getting off the big roads and finding the good people and good stories.”
People in Gautier like it because they’ve heard about it, but people in New York know nothing about and they are loving it — I loved sharing this story with people all over the country and that was kind of the basis of ‘Hurricane Hunters,’ that this amazing mission was launching out of Biloxi.
Christian D’Andrea, director of “Less Hell More Angel”
Shunpiking in Gautier
It was on a shunpiking expedition when D’Andrea said he saw a much different side of the South.
“I was shunpiking in Gautier and I saw a sign that said ‘blessing of the bikes this way,’ so I decided to check it out and pulled into a church parking lot and I was amazed at what I saw — the mingling of all kinds of motorcycle clubs and people hugging and praying together.”
D’Andrea said he was impressed with the scene that he pulled out his camera and spent a few hours talking to people and filming the event. He used his footage to create the short documentary “Less Hell More Angel.”
“We hear so much about the negative and the divisiveness in America, but here’s this other thing that is really true and that was brotherhood — these guys weren’t doing this for publicity, I just happened to come across it and I thought that was wonderful and I wanted to show it to a broader audience.”
A different view of the South
He said the blessing of the bikes was a “multi-denominational” service.
“I was amazed to see these people from different bike clubs and different races getting together and hugging, these guys were arm in and arm and they were praying with each other,” D’Andrea said. “To me, this was America at it’s best —the indiscriminate sharing of good will from groups that people have been told to believe are very divided.”
“Less Hell More Angel” was the winner of the “Reel South” award at the Oxford Film Festival as best documentary short. “Reel South” is a PBS program that features short documentaries about the South.
“It streams on PBS.org and it’s doing really well,” D’Andrea said. “People in Gautier like it because they’ve heard about it, but people in New York know nothing about it, and they are loving it — I loved sharing this story with people all over the country and that was kind of the basis of ‘Hurricane Hunters,’ that this amazing mission was launching out of Biloxi.”