A touching and at times disturbing documentary about Hurricane Katrina, Trouble the Water is an Oscar-nominated film that shows footage taken by citizens during and after the flooding of New Orleans. While the movie doesn't tell us anything we don't already know, it does give a rare personal glimpse at the human toll, psychologically and otherwise, of the hurricane.
The movie follows a couple and their neighbor as they decide to stay behind in New Orleans despite a mandatory evacuation order by the mayor. Too poor to leave (the government didn't provide any public transportation out of the city), they take refuge in their attic as the water engulfs the bottom floor of their house. After the waters recede, they leave New Orleans are recount their steps for filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin.
Most Americans would agree Katrina is a national tragedy, though those who didn't have a personal stake in the flooding - like me - likely don't think of it in terms beyond poor emergency management, billions of dollars in damage and a few unfortunate deaths. Trouble the Water makes the incident more personal, because it shows a personal, real-life story. Footage of stranded residents - most of them black - dotting the highway and 911 calls of people realizing death is near as they are unable to breakthrough their roofs to escape rising water add to the sense of shock and dismay.
As good as the movie is, it does lose steam in the last half hour as the story deviates away from Katrina and New Orleans. Seeing how the primary characters' lives evolve following the hurricane is interesting and important, but it reaches a point where the film needed to move on and wrap things up. When the main character starts rapping to the camera, you know things have gone off the deep end.
Trouble the Water is at times a riveting documentary, but it loses its focus at the most inopportune at times. The movie is powerful when it remains in New Orleans, much less so once it leaves the city. Still, recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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