Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trouble the Water

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Shocking Katrina Documentary Created from Real-Time, Home Movies Shot by Storm Victim

On August 28, 2005, with Hurricane Katrina bearing down on the New Orleans, Scott and Kimberly Rivers Roberts made the fateful decision to weather the storm instead of evacuate. Armed with a video camera, Kim started wandering around their Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, interviewing friends and relatives who had also chosen to stay in the city.
It is readily apparent from watching the pre-landfall footage that none of them anticipated the dire struggle for survival which was about to unfold. Not only did they expect the levees to hold like they had for every storm since the Great Flood of 1927, but they had no reason to suspect they’d be utterly abandoned by local, state and federal authorities in the event of a massive natural disaster.
But as we all know, that’s precisely what happened, and thousands of suddenly-homeless citizens ended up stranded for days on end without any sustenance. They were forced to fend for themselves during a triple-digit heat wave, while awaiting the proverbial cavalry which never arrived.
Trouble the Water is an eye-opening documentary, which enables the audience to be a fly on the crumbling levee walls as Kim and her husband shift from carefree observers into survival mode. In virtually the blink of an eye, the atmosphere goes from ominous to desperate as the water level rises so precipitously that no one has a chance to make a dash for higher ground on foot.
Although the Roberts lived to tell the tale, the same can’t be said for all the subjects of their home movie. For example, the camera captures the shock and dismay in their eyes two weeks after the hurricane passed, when they enter the house of Kim’s uncle, who had been interviewed earlier, only to find his decomposing corpse lying in the living room. Other horror stories follow, such as the sight of an acquaintance’s aging mother whose body had been left behind with dozens of other patients in a hospital now turned morgue.
Also effectively chronicled is the constant frustration the couple encountered in dealing with FEMA bureaucrats who had the nerve to ask for documents obviously washed away. No wonder so many of the victims ended up broke, depressed, unemployed and no longer able to trust their own government.
There’s a telling scene towards the end of the picture, where a woman talks about how she’s counseled her son who wants to enter the military. “You’re not going to fight for a country that doesn’t give a damn about you,” she declares matter-of-factly. “No way!”
Raw, unfiltered and expletive-laced, but a brutally-honest flick guaranteed to give you an unsanitized picture of what life was like for the least fortunate folks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: Zeitgeist Films

To see a trailer of Trouble the Water, visit:

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