Trouble The Water

Trouble The Water


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

One of the most shameful episodes in American history is documented here by a small group of survivors, including aspiring rap star Kim and her husband Scott.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. After two weeks of warnings many had left the city. But no public transport was arranged and 100,000 of the poorest inhabitants were trapped - “people that just couldn’t leave, like me. Not because we ain’t want to, but we just couldn’t afford the luxury.”

Copy picture

This account cuts between news reports, film taken during the flooding and footage of Kim and her group in the aftermath. There are compelling scenes of flooding as the levees break and people are forced to wait in their homes for rescue that never comes. One local hero swims through the swirling waters to rescue neighbours.

Most harrowing are the calls to emergency services. One woman is trapped in her attic with water rising. “Please ma’am, please,” she begs. “There are no rescue services at this time.” “So I’m gonna die…”

After 100 hours, still no help has been sent in (President Bush is busy with his War on Terror) so people start to walk through the water, some finding boats. The Coastguard tell them to go to the nearby Naval base, which has plenty of spare accommodation since it is in the process of being closed down. When they arrive they are told to get off government property or be shot. According to Scott, they have guns pointed at them. A black guard corroborates this. The President later gave the Navy officers a commendation for “defusing a potentially violent confrontation”.

Kim’s group manage to acquire a truck. It’s not clear how they do this, but they make it out of the city, taking 30 people with them. Along the way they pass many who are desperate for help. News reports at the time spoke of the suffering and chaos in the stadium, supposedly a safe haven. Here we see some of the thousands who waited there, including many injured and disabled, some white, but the vast majority African American.

Unfortunately, the rest of this film becomes more of a home movie as it follows Kim and Scott on their way to Memphis, where Kim has a cousin and both intend to start new lives. They are frank about their lives before Katrina: Kim was on drugs, Scott was a dealer. In Oprah fashion, they see this as a heaven-sent turning point. Kim pushes her music, and what could have been a great documentary becomes more of a rap video. There is far too much about “finding myself” and going “where the Lord leads”. Eventually, though they have sworn never to return to New Orleans, the Lord does lead them back there.

In a series of rather patched on endings a tourist DVD is contrasted with the devastation that still exists a year later (and probably now), Scott is seen finding an honest job and they take part in a staged demo outside City Hall.

Something of a wasted opportunity, this is nevertheless a powerful reminder of how the government of the world’s richest nation abandoned some of its poorest citizens in their hour of need.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2009
Share this with others on...
Trouble The Water packshot
Personal story of a rap artist and her husband who lived through Hurricane Katrina.
Amazon link

Director: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes


Sundance 2008

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Running Stumbled