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ug. 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in southeast Louisiana.
It was supposed to be a Category Three hurricane; one not expected to cause excessive damage.
But the levee system in New Orleans was weak.
And the Category Three hurricane turned out to be a Category Five.
The levees ultimately failed and the city fell victim to the fifth deadliest storm in United States history. Nearly 2,000 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were displaced without any help or aid for a week. “Trouble the Water” paints a troubling picture of America’s response to disaster on the home front.

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Kimberly Rivers Roberts is an aspiring rapper who, on a whim, decided to record the looming storm off the coast. Roberts lived in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, blocks from the French Quarter and three blocks from one of the 50 aging levee systems holding the ocean back. New Orleans before, and after, the storm has one of the largest prisoner populations in the world. Roberts and her husband grew up within a poor and drug-riddled lifestyle. Her story, combined with that of this eclectic, diverse city, shed light to the problems and situations that brought about this horrendous catastrophe, which were both a political and natural disaster.
Armed with a home camcorder, Roberts interviewed her neighbors and gave ironic commentary portraying an over-confident community. One little girl standing on a dilapidated step posed, arms akimbo, faced the camera and said, “I’m not afraid of no storm!” This was Sunday Aug. 28, 2005. As the wind picks up, the audience feels the tension. These people had no idea what was coming. They just knew they had no means to get out of the city.
No transportation.
No city-coordinated public transportation to take them away.
The documentary goes back and forth between the home-shot footages of Roberts and the directors, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, as well as footage of the aftermath two weeks later. The raw footage of Aug. 29, 2005 shows Roberts’ street completely flooded; only the top of a stop sign and roofs of houses were visible. They were stuck in the attic. Her husband and brother-in-law used a punching bag to get everyone from out of the attic to higher ground through the rising water. As Roberts peeked out, her husband’s voice is heard off camera saying, “The levees failed. They broke …”
The documentary tries desperately to look to the future, but unbelievably, the city is still in shambles. When Roberts and her husband return and discover that their neighborhood has not been inspected for dead bodies after two weeks, they suddenly realize their community was left to die. The government aid promised to them was lost in the mail. An eviction notice hung at their door. Disillusioned and determined to change their lives, both decide to leave, but then changed their minds. They realized that rebuilding their community and giving it a voice was more important.
From Lessin and Deal, the directors and producers of “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” comes another chilling documentary, except this time they tackle the drowning of a city and a war zone still happening on home soil. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2008, “Trouble the Water” is a movie every American should see.

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