Theatrical Review: Trouble The Water

The following review originally ran as part of our coverage of this year’s New Directors/New Films festival on April 28th, 2008.
Trouble the Water
Directors: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal
Executive Producers: Danny Glover, Joslyn Barnes, Todd Olson, David Alcaro
Producers: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal
Cinematography: PJ Raval, Nadia Hallgren, Kimberly Roberts
Editor: T. Woody Richman (additional editing by Mary Lampson)
Music: Davidge/Del Naja, Black Kold Madina
U.S., 2007, 94 minutes
Trouble the Water is simply the best Katrina documentary I’ve seen to date. No disrespect to Spike Lee (When The Levees Broke) or the other noble works that have come out since the disaster (Axe in the Attic and Katrina Diary to name just two) but this movie hits every note just right. Lessin and Deal went down to New Orleans just five days after Katrina hit with no clear idea of what they were going to find. To their good fortune -and ours– they happened to meet Kimberly Roberts and her husband, Scott, a recently homeless couple at the Superdome. Prior to Katrina, the two had been living a very difficult existence in the impoverished Ninth Ward by selling drugs, something they touch upon in a one of the film’s more moving moments. The disaster, as tragic as it was, ended up affording them the opportunity to learn more about themselves than they would have otherwise; one lesson being that they were living miserable lives and were grateful to make a change.
Adding to that life-changing revelation is the fact that Kimberly, who had gotten hold of a video camera not long before the hurricane hit, ended up filming portions of her experience. Those clips, are both horrific and funny and much of it ended up incorporated into Trouble the Water. Hearing Kimberly’s remarks over her often manic camera work is another of the film’s amazing aspects. Her anxiety is palpable as the water rises inch by inch, engulfing their home. Though her regional dialect is at times hard to understand, the spiritual change she goes through over the ensuing days and weeks is very clear. As she and Scott confront the enormity of their situation, rather than lie down and give up, they rise above their circumstances.

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