Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Trouble The Water

Last night I went to see Trouble the Water, a documentary about Hurricane Katrina, filmed largely from inside New Orleans when the storm hit. Kimberly Rivers Roberts, a sweet, sensitive, god-fearing, communitarian, drug-dealing 24-year-old, living with her husband in one of the poorest parts of NO, bought a $20 camera the day before the storm hit, and this brilliant, hugely affecting film is the result. "One of the best American documentaries in recent memory." said the New York Times, which sounds about right.

There are so many tragedies in the world, and most of them don't get the attention they deserve; I can't quite work out why I'm particularly obsessed with this one. I think it could be because of the sheer, bare-faced simplicity of it. When so many conflicts, atrocities and 'government malfunctions' are so fiendishly complicated, there's something about the rare, straightforward horror of Katrina that hits us post-ideological leftists right between the eyes: such unambiguous wrongs, visited on the poorest members of society by a country that - at so many different levels of state authority - couldn't give a shit as its citizens lay dying.

I spent most of the film with my jaw open, or swearing quietly under my breath, shocked by the pictures of first world streets under deep, deep water, shocked by the hubris and cowardice of those in uniforms, shocked by the fortitude of those citizens who picked their lives up and swam to shore.

Here's what N'Orlins looked like when My Fellow Americans (i.e. me, Tom and Rachael) passed through it in January 2008:
beyond the French Quarter, some areas remain entirely un-populated for whole blocks, family houses are still left as crumbling wreckage, with flotsam-ridden yards, almost every street is scarred with pot-holes that could swallow your whole wheel, and crime is still a major problem. Last month three guys with AK-47s held up an armoured bank truck outside a middle school playground around the corner from where we were staying - in the middle of recess. Their getaway was aided by the fact that the NOPD literally could not carry out a proper Police chase: the roads are just too messed up for that, thanks to a combination of neglect, Katrina, and the army humvees that pounded the streets in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Watch the trailer for Trouble The Water here, and go to the film's official site to find out how you can help with the rebuilding of New Orleans' still ailing infrastructure.