Kimberly Rivers Roberts is a 24-year-old aspiring rapper living with her husband Scott in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. Kim has recently acquired a $20 consumer-grade camcorder; days prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina she wanders her neighborhood interviewing locals, asking them if they're scared, why they haven't evacuated. "It's going to be a day to remember," she remarks. As the storm makes landfall and the levee breaks, flooding the city in contaminated water, Kim continues filming—chronicling dramatic rescues and harrowing returns to the city's devastated outer-districts.
Comprised of Kim's own footage alongside contemporary news reels and official government statements regarding Hurricane Katrina, Trouble the Water elucidates the potential of ecological crisis to further entrench America's hierarchies of race and power. Carl Deal and Tia Lessen's joint-directorial debut premiered at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize; Silverdocs, where it won an Honorable Mention; and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, where it won both the Jury Award and the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights. Trouble the Water was also nominated for Emmys in Outstanding Informational Programming - Long Form and Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Research, as well as the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
"The extraordinary documentary Trouble the Water had an eyewitness in the city's 9th Ward, during the hurricane… The film is about Katrina, and even more about the human spirit. Kimberly and her husband, Scott, are the life force personified: smart, funny, undefeated, indignant, determined"
"Lessin and Deal's panoramas of displaced Nola residents at makeshift shelters are by now familiar but nonetheless piercing visions of a citizenry let down by their local, state, and federal governments. Still, the film crystallizes its indictment of the response to Katrina, the racial and economic issues underlying that response, and the continuing mismanagement of recovery efforts through the specific experiences of Scott and Kim, the former a drug dealer who admits to having been on a path to jail or the grave, and the latter a devout aspiring rapper who displays courageous, levelheaded leadership during the crisis"
"Trouble the Water makes its points without didacticism, perhaps guided by the Robertses, who are interested in surviving, not grandstanding. That's true even weeks after the storm, when they, Brian and the filmmakers return to New Orleans, where the streets are clogged with mud and debris. A dead dog rots in the sun, and inside one shabby home the body of Ms. Roberts's uncle bloats in the heat. She goes inside, while the camera idles behind at a respectful distance"
"At every turn human resilience is pitted against a system that exudes racism and callousness. It is still difficult to take in footage of the convention centre with thousands of people destitute, the old and sick in wheelchairs, and dead bodies left to decompose in the richest, most powerful country in the world… Don't miss this film"