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NYFF 07 Review: The Axe In The Attic

The Axe in the Attic
Directed by Ed Pincus & Lucia Small
After the New Orleans flood of 1965, many of those who survived would keep an axe in their attic so that, in the event the water should ever again rise to the top of their homes, they would have a way out. Interestingly, some of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, forever immortalized in TV and still images, standing on their roofs hoping for rescue owe their lives to this practice. Now documentary makers Lucia Small and Ed Pincus bring us The Axe in the Attic, a fine contribution to the 45th New York Film Festival and one that pulls no punches. Where’s the outrage you may ask; this remarkable documentary gives its subjects – both victims as well as its creators – a platform for expressing it. The results are moving.
Don’t allow the blip of controversy about this movie get in the way of checking it out. While Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke, a powerful and necessary work of documentary film making itself, is planted firmly in New Orleans interviewing survivors and celebrities alike, Pincus and Small hit the road for a 60-day tour of America’s back roads to find their subjects. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that those displaced residents of New Orleans belong to the single largest American diaspora. They can be found in FEMA trailer parks and crashing with family, but their collective feelings of depression and hope are truly profound. The controversy – or criticism – that the film is generating has to do with the two filmmakers inserting themselves so centrally into the story. Many of said critics believe that the focus ought to be solely on the victims and that showing the film maker’s own problems just intrudes on the victims’ dignity and to be honest, at times their presence does have a taint of narcissism, but ultimately I found the decision to be a successful device.

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