August 29, 2008

Trouble the Water- The Third Anniversary of Katrina

With another storm bearing down on New Orleans, the amazing and very disturbing documentary Trouble the Water is beginning its roll out across the country. I hope that many people see this because it is tangible evidence of mismanagement and lack of leadership that George W. Bush has wrought upon this country.

I saw it last weekend in NY and the response was tremendous. Lots of the showings were sold out, and following the screening the filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal answered questions about the film (which is becoming more and more common here in NY especially for smaller films.)

One of the things that is so remarkable about the film is that this was not the film that Deal and Lessin set out to make. They were in the area two weeks after Katrina working on a story about the Louisiana National Guard troops, and into their camera frame walked this amazing force of energy Kimberly Rivers Roberts who told them she had a story to tell. And boy did she. She and her husband Scott lived in the 9th ward just barely getting by surviving by any means necessary. As the storm approached she took out her new video camera that she had used only once before, and this amateur filmmaker with only a single tape and battery was able to record images of Katrina right from the storm's center.

The footage of Kim and the people they took in is so hard to watch. It's shakey and brutal. I actually felt nauseous while watching it which just goes to show how well I'd fare in a hurricane.

Lessin and Deal also procured hours of 911 tapes of people (the phones still worked) stuck in their homes with no way to get out. The operators in Baton Rouge took calls from trapped folks and had to break the news that there was no assistance coming until the storm ended. One woman actually realized and said that she was going to die - and there was silence on the other end of the line from the operator. What can you say to that?

Kim and her husband Scott got themselves and others they assisted out of the devastated area in a truck driving by the convention center making us recall the images of people stranded in the heat with no water and no facilities which dominated the major news coverage of Katrina.

They made it to relatives in Memphis and spent six months there before heading back to New Orleans and trying to rebuild their lives. Kim is a rapper and her music is throughout the film and one song "I am Amazing" is an anthem to a young girl's survival against all the odds.

I sometimes can't believe that this actually happened, and this morning brought it home again with the announcement of a memorial service for 80 bodies still unclaimed. 80 bodies still unclaimed. How can that be? All other remembrances have been canceled due to the impending storm. One positive note is that for people without transportation, the state is providing buses for people to get out before Gustav hits. While the folks in New Orleans are evacuating again, go and see Trouble the Water (find out where it is playing here) and think about how lucky you are on this solemn anniversary.