Feb 012010

On the day before Hurricane Katrina–just blocks away from the French Quarter but far from the New Orleans that most tourists knew–Kimberly Rivers Roberts, an aspiring rap artist, turns her new video camera on herself and her 9th Ward neighbors trapped in the city. “It’s going to be a day to remember,” Kim declares. As the hurricane begins to rage and the floodwaters fill their world and the screen, Kim and her husband Scott continue to film their harrowing retreat to higher ground and the dramatic rescues of friends and neighbors. The couple returns to the devastation of their neighborhood in New Orleans, only to be met by the appalling repeated failures of the government. But these self-described street hustlers become heroes, surviving the storm and seizing a chance for a new beginning.

Genres: Documentary; Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.; Release Date: August 22nd, 2008 (limited); MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Lay and I stumbled across this movie at Blockbuster a couple of weeks ago when there was nothing new we wanted to watch. We’d never heard of this movie, and were surprised in the extreme at how moved we were by this movie. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to post about it. It is a movie I highly recommend.

I call this an “accidental” film because it’s only a series of coincidences that bring this movie into being.

Kimberly Roberts is a 24-year-old rap hopeful who took some incredible footage just before and during hurricane Katrina. Carl Deal and Tia Lessin came down to Louisiana to film a different project about Katrina and found both her and her footage, they switched gears and this movie was the result. They blend newsreels and footage taken by the couple and the directors. It’s not polished, but it’s real.

Kimberly knows her neighborhood and is a real person. She asks people what they are going to do about the hurricane her uncle buys another bottle of booze, stumbles home, while a 10-year-old niece flashes a gang sign, and declares she is not scared of any water.

The story of the U.S. government’s response to hurricane Katrina remains shocking at many levels, but that has been covered. This is a more personal account shot by a resident during and after the storm. But it still contains plenty of gruesome insights: the failure to evacuate the hospitals and prisons, and the protection of higher ground from homeless citizens by the armed forces of the U.S. navy, are the most terrible details. The film also depicts the huge burden of trying to rebuild a life that has been completely swept away. As a piece of pure cinema, it’s limited; but it’s a story that needs to be told and re-told until something is eventually done.

There are several striking images in the film, including a recording of a 911 call in which an woman requesting help can’t get out of her attic which is flooding. The 911 attendant has to tell her that there is no help at this time, and the victim replies, “So I’m going to die?” Silence on the other end of the line.

This is a documentary you really must to see to understand the personal impact of Katrina. Sure, it’s about failures of government in the aftermath of the storm, but it’s also about ordinary people doing the best they can in the most extra-ordinary circumstances.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (2 votes, average: 8.00 out of 10)

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