In the wake of Chicago’s epic storm last night, my significant other and I decided to take a look at the 2008 Hurricane Katrina documentary, Trouble the Water. The majority of this highly personal, eye-opening film is composed of first person footage shot by Kimberly Roberts (a.k.a. struggling rap artist BlackKoldMadina) as she attempts to escape her home in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. In short: this isn’t the Hurricane Katrina you saw on CNN.
The poster for this doc, shown at right, argues that, “It’s not about a hurricane. It’s about America.” However, what the viewer is more likely to feel, at least while watching the film, is that it’s really about Kim and Scott Roberts–their family, their background, their struggles, and their opinion of America. “The war isn’t in Iraq,” their friend Brian tells a military officer, “it’s right here in Louisiana!”
As much as I was affected by the struggle illustrated through this highly-impoverished couple, my main disappointment with the film was in the editing. Such a small percentage of the film actually takes place during the days immediately surrounding the hurricane, and even that is inter-cut with footage shot much later, after they had escaped and then returned back to the area to assess the damage. Plus, jarring news footage of George W. Bush, CNN, etc. is randomly thrown in, perhaps with the intent of contrasting what the nation saw versus what was actually happening.
If you’d love to see a first person account of Hurricane Katrina from someone who was unable to evacuate, as well as learn a whole lot about those people, then Carl Deal and Tia Lessin’s Trouble the Water is worth checking out. However, for a really moving account of the disaster that stays within the 3 or 4 days immediately surrounding the event, you should definitely read Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun.