January 21, 2008

Sundance. Trouble the Water.

Trouble the Water "A survivor of Hurricane Katrina gets it all on camera in Trouble the Water, a blend of DIY footage and filming by co-directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal that considers the impact and aftermath of the New Orleans catastrophe from the perspective of a family that stayed at home during the storm," writes Robert Koehler in Variety. "Though tinged with the sheer gumption and personal resolve of amateur vidmaker and would-be rapper Kimberly Roberts, this is ultimately a minor doc contribution to the bulging library of Katrina-related films and TV reports."

For the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan talks with the co-directors and with Roberts, who, 9 months and 2 weeks pregnant, nonetheless arrived in Park City: "Being a witness for the voiceless, impoverished and dispossessed is the role that Kim felt strongly enough about to make the trip to Utah. 'I watched the coverage on TV and I said, "They ain't telling the real stories. What happened to the real citizens of New Orleans?" I wanted to be a voice of the black community. We're speaking for everyone who stayed, everyone who suffered, everyone who died.'"

"As the credits rolled, the audience jumped to its feet, giving the film a rapturous applause, one of the warmest witnessed so far," reported Brian Brooks in indieWIRE yesterday.

Later, that same night: "At 12:47 AM, the film's co-producer T Woody Richman got the call to ferry Roberts and husband Scott down the mountain to a Salt Lake City hospital," reports Variety's Anne Thompson. "Roberts gave birth on Monday, January 21, at 6:14 AM. The parents named their healthy 7 pound 1 ounce baby girl Skyy Kaylen Roberts."

"New snow on the mountain and new life in our midst. It's a lovely day in Park City," adds David Carr.

Updates, 1/24: "No human being I can imagine could watch Trouble the Water and not be overwhelmed by grief and joy, and humbled by one's sudden awareness of one's own prejudices about the lives, passions and dreams of poor people," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Danny Glover, who helped produce the film, spoke eloquently afterwards about New Orleans as a place where 'the global South meets the global North' and where a brief window of opportunity exists to do battle against a redevelopment model that's based on the tourist and service economies - and on a policy of malign neglect toward neighborhoods where people like Scott and Kim Roberts live."

"In the age of reality TV, where no live unscripted footage ever comes across as truly genuine but performed as 'ideas' of reality, Trouble the Water and its brutally intimate journey of two survivors feels rather bracing," writes Nathaniel Rogers at Zoom In Online. "It’s a reminder that camcorders are not just toys. And telling your story to the camera is not just exhibitionism."

Update, 1/25: Salon's Andrew O'Hehir his own Documentary Grand Prize: Trouble the Water is "a transformative story about passion, resilience and heroism among the poorest residents of America's most downtrodden city."

Updates, 1/26: "Since Trouble avails itself so heavily of the amateur video-camera footage of 9th Ward resident Kimberly Rivers, the movie functions as a real-life Cloverfield," notes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr, "a monster-movie where the monster is weather. Which makes George W Bush, FEMA head Mike Brown, and a soulless post-hurricane bureaucracy the equivalent of those arachnoid mini-monsters that jump on people and rip their hearts out."

Variety's Anne Thompson has background on the doc's making.

Update, 1/28: For Cinematical's Kim Voynar, this is the "most powerful documentary I've seen at Sundance."

Updates, 1/30: "[T]he professionally shot material, of Roberts and her husband's struggle to rebuild their lives after the storm, tells as powerful a story about the New Orleans diaspora as I've seen on film, from an angle unfamiliar," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "It plays out like a love story, with the Roberts' turning their backs on their city in times of crisis, only to realize that their hearts are there after all."

"Rarely have the personal consequences of government malpractice been so well told," adds B Ruby Rich in the Guardian.

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Posted by dwhudson at January 21, 2008 2:10 PM