Trouble The Water DVD review

A very human take on a very natural disaster in one of the finest documentaries of 2008….

Trouble The Water

As haunting a documentary as you’re likely to see all year, Trouble The Water begins the day before Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, with tragic and devastating consequences. It’s filmed on a home movie camera, although you’d guess that within seconds of the film starting, and it documents the story of Kimberly Rivers Roberts and those around her. Roberts is a 24-year old, a wannabe rapper, who along with her husband is struggling with life.

What follows is a film that weaves together the footage that Roberts shot on her camera, with the news material from the time that the hurricane struck. It’s a very raw, but very impactful combination.

Trouble The Water benefits enormously from its lack of gloss, and its striking images of the flood waters hitting are hard to rid from your mind. It’s here where the documentary is at its strongest: Roberts can’t afford to flee New Orleans, so is left to fend with what she has, and the human viewpoint of being caught in the middle of such a massive natural disaster is very clear.

What’s also damning, and comes across loud and clear, is the State reaction to the crisis, right through to choosing what areas of New Orleans to rebuild. Many millions of words have been devoted to the lessons that the US government must learn from its reaction to Katrina, and you can’t help but feel like adding to them when the end credits role.

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What’s ultimately surprising though is how Trouble The Water develops. It’s a bumpy film, by the nature of how its source material was recorded, and while directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal glue it together with a great deal of skill, it is perhaps just a little too long in retrospect.

But with Roberts at the heart of it, it’s very tricky to complain. The lessons and changes she takes as a result of Katrina are warming and hopeful, and give an unexpected uplift to an otherwise harrowing documentary. Her attempts to rebuild her life in the aftermath of the hurricane’s strike are reason enough to give the film a watch.

Yet there’s more to Trouble The Water than that. Because this is a very human viewpoint in the midst of a massive event, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Directors Lessin and Deal are careful to keep their work invisible here, and their efforts in bringing Roberts’ story to the screen really deserve reward. A strong documentary.

4 stars

Trouble The Water is out now.

Rating:

4 out of 5