Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I saw the film "Trouble the Water" at a documentary film festival last April and was profoundly moved by it. It is coming to Cinema 21 in Portland just for this weekend--check out for showtimes. I would strongly urge you to make an effort to see it. I plan to attend the Friday 9 p.m. showing--I'd be glad to meet anyone there. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote about the film back in April:

"Trouble the Water" won the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival's top prize, the Grand Jury award, as well as the Award for Human Rights, which is presented to a film that addresses a significant human rights issue in the U.S., and the Full Frame/Working Films award, which is a pretty cool prize that aims to assist the outreach efforts of films that have the greatest potential for supporting serious grassroots organizing and social change. As far as I'm concerned, this film should be required viewing for every person in America, particularly the remaining candidates for president.

On August 28, 2005, 24-year-old Kimberly Roberts, unable to afford to leave her home in the ninth ward of New Orleans for safe ground, turned on a video camera that she had bought on the street for $20 a few days before and, in the face of the coming storm, set out to document "how it really is, right now." Within a few hours, she and her husband Scott were huddled in their cramped and leaking attic, recording on video their struggle and that of so many others to survive Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. To our great fortune, they encountered first-time co-directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal two weeks after the storm at a Red Cross relief center, and the result is this breathtaking film about one of the most shameful events in U.S. history.

The Robertses turn out to be remarkable subjects for the film--brave, resourceful, good-humored, and heroic. In the face of unimaginable government indifference and neglect as the city's mostly African American poor residents struggle to find shelter and food, the couple helped several to safety themselves and maintained courage, grace, and optimism in the face of excruciating hardship. It is only as the film goes on that we discover just how marginal their lives have been--both formerly sold drugs to survive and, as the daughter of a drug addict herself, Kimberly's life before Katrina required resourcefulness far beyond what most of us can imagine. Making masterful use of Kimberly's video footage and following the Robertses in the weeks and months that followed, the filmmakers have found a profoundly effective way to lay bare the failures of leadership in New Orleans. While the heroism of people like the Robertses has gone unrewarded and unrecognized, the federal government has magnified its innumerable failures by issuing commendations to members of the military who actually turned guns on desperate residents who came to a mostly abandoned base on the advice of the Coast Guard seeking shelter in the storm's aftermath.

The story revealed here is truly beyond comprehension, yet our guides are two people many of us would tend to write off. After an hour-and-a-half, these two, especially the charismatic Kimberly, had absolutely captured my heart. I sincerely hope that all the well-deserved festival recognition for the film (it also won a grand jury prize at Sundance) will ensure wide distribution. You can keep an eye on its distribution hopes at Watch that website also for Kimberly's emerging music career--her original rap songs featured in the film are pretty amazing.

No comments: