Trouble the Water


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Although there was a red carpet, Trouble the Water had a rather quiet New Orleans premiere. Executive producer Danny Glover and the film’s primary two subjects, Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts, were among the small crowd to view the film at NOCCA on Sunday.


Hopefully, Katrina anniversary fatigue will wear off before the film opens at Canal Place on Sept. 19. (A full review is forthcoming in Gambit; trailer here). A jury award winner at Sundance, it’s a film well worth watching and had two things I have not seen before in three years of Katrina projects.


What’s most stunning about the film is the camera work of one of the main subjects, Kimberly Rivers Roberts. She was working her own videocam as the storm approached, interviewing her neighbors and family, in a funny, foul-mouthed, cinema verite jaunt around the block. She was among the Ninth Ward residents who didn’t evacuate. And some of the most stunning footage comes from her attic on Monday morning as the levee breaches send water pouring into her street. There’s little left to the imagination as the waves start cresting the stop sign on the corner.


Two days later, she and her family and neighbors realize that no-one is coming to help. So they need to escape through their own power. They make it to the Naval Station on Poland Avenue, where children and all they are turned away at gunpoint. So again they set out for downtown New Orleans, where FEMA has yet to arrive.


It’s stunning to think that they headed to the Superdome and Convention Center. One wonders how a Naval base on the river was not used to evacuate people.


The film tracks the Roberts and their remarkable strength and ingenuity in surviving. They relocate to Memphis to try to start over. Like many evacuees, the horrors of the ordeal – first the flood, then being stranded in a catastrophically dysfunctional evacuation — are enough to convince them that there must be a better life somewhere else. But New Orleanians don’t give up on their home easily, and the issue is how people like the Roberts will remake their communities. 


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