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Baptism by Disaster

Two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Kimberly Roberts bought a video camera from a neighborhood street hustler. She planned to use it to record birthday parties, reunions, and family celebrations. Instead she captured a truly traumatic first-person account of one of the five deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States. Trouble the Water reveals exactly how things went down in the Lower Ninth Ward, where poor black residents of New Orleans wound up at the tragic center of one of this nation’s most shameful political moments.

The camerawork is shaky, but the story keeps viewers pinned to their seats. And the film’s chronology just adds to the feeling of foreboding doom. In the documentary’s earliest scenes, the first-time filmmaker and her husband Scott prepare for the worst and warn their poor and infirm neighbors to batten down the hatches. Everyone expected thunder, lightning, rain, and destruction — but not on the grand scale that the skies delivered. Trouble the Water captures the devastation of inevitable natural disaster and the inexplicability of discrimination and death post-Katrina — images of which should be seared into every voter’s brain come November 4. The film could have easily wound up as another depressing montage of bloated bodies and suffering Superdome refugees, but the Robertses’ righteous determination elevates this work to a force to be witnessed. You can — Friday night at 7:45. Trouble the Water is part of the Politics, Please screening series, taking place throughout October at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Admission is $10. Call 305-67-FILMS or visit for additional screening times.
Fri., Oct. 17, 7:45 p.m., 2008


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