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Trouble the Water

Trouble the Water

4.5 4
Director: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin

Cast: Kimberly Rivers Roberts, Scott Roberts

Relegated to the role of refugees in their own country the moment the levees broke, New Orleans residents Kimberly and Scott Roberts document their harrowing struggle against the forces of nature and the evils of man as they nobly attempt to rebuild their lives amidst one of the greatest natural disasters ever to befall the United States. Kimberly Rivers Roberts is a


Relegated to the role of refugees in their own country the moment the levees broke, New Orleans residents Kimberly and Scott Roberts document their harrowing struggle against the forces of nature and the evils of man as they nobly attempt to rebuild their lives amidst one of the greatest natural disasters ever to befall the United States. Kimberly Rivers Roberts is a musician and filmmaker who was living in New Orleans with her husband, Scott, when the force of Hurricane Katrina transformed their once-happy hometown into a waterlogged wasteland. In the aftermath of the disaster, the nightly news was filled with images of looting and chaos. Now, as the masses finally receive the opportunity to witness events from an insider's perspective, it quickly becomes apparent that the rampaging waters were only the beginning of the problem, and that the ineptitude of the government and the media in dealing with the disaster did nearly as much damage to New Orleans as the forces of Mother Nature.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, LA, in the late summer of 2005, it was a disaster that seemed to have no end. A Category Five storm would be enough to level most neighborhoods all by itself, but after the city's levee system failed, most of the Crescent City went under water, and the dangerous incompetence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to the crisis led to a tragedy that's still slowly unfolding three years later. Many of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Katrina are still waiting to be rebuilt, and many families that called New Orleans home for generations have left the city, never to return. It's a story that covers a huge canvas, and when Spike Lee set out to make a documentary about New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, When the Levees Broke clocked in at a whopping four hours. Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal have taken a very different approach to the same story, working on a much smaller scale with their documentary Trouble the Water, and they've created something nearly as affecting as Lee's superb film by allowing us -- at times forcing us -- to see the devastation of Katrina through the eyes of one couple living in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. Most of the first ten minutes of Trouble the Water is taken from camcorder footage shot by Kimberly Rivers Roberts, a woman living in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans. While city officials warned residents to evacuate their homes in the days before Katrina rolled into Louisiana, no provisions were made for people who didn't have cars or the money to pay for a trip out of town, and Kim and most of her neighbors were just the sort of folks marginalized by this flaw in the city's emergency plan. At first, Kim and the others on her street seem to take the imminent crisis in stride -- they've seen storms before, and expect to see them again -- but it isn't long before everyone realizes Katrina is far more than they bargained for. For the next 90 minutes, Lessin and Deal cut back and forth between Kim's rough but harrowing video of the storm and their journey out of New Orleans and footage shot by Lessin and Deal as Kim and her husband, Scott Roberts, try to rebuild their lives and later revisit what's left of the city they loved (when Kim and Scott arrive in Memphis, TN, to stay with family, Scott admits on camera that it's the first time he's ever been out of Louisiana). In some respects, Kim and Scott Roberts seem to typify the accepted profile of people who got lost in the shuffle after Hurricane Katrina -- they're low-income African-Americans who couldn't afford the emergency plan they were expected to have and were left stranded to deal with both the weather and FEMA. But Kim and Scott are also among the relatively lucky ones; they eventually made it out of their attic, got out of town, and lived to tell their story. And as Trouble the Water goes along, bit by bit we learn more about Kim and Scott and how quietly remarkable their lives have been. Kim was orphaned as a teenager when her mother succumbed to AIDS and for a while she supported herself as a crack dealer before leaving behind her life of crime and embracing Christianity; she's a fascinating mixture of straight-up ghetto attitude and deeply sincere spiritual compassion, and can quote scripture from memory as well as dropping hardcore rhymes as her alter ego, "Black Kold Madina." And though Scott doesn't has as dramatic a tale to tell, he's heroic without calling attention to himself when he has to help rescue his wife and their friends, and there's a moment near the end of the movie where he speaks with quiet satisfaction about his new job and radiates a gratitude that's too real not to move anyone with a pulse. As we grow to admire and respect the strength of the survivors of Katrina, it's all but impossible not to be outraged at the callous disrespect and lack of concern that meets them at nearly every turn from the authorities who are supposed to help and protect them; more than one person wonders aloud if anyone has realized that they happen to be American citizens with rights and freedoms. Trouble the Water doesn't shy away from the larger story of what happened in New Orleans (and what continues to happen), with blame squarely pointed where it belongs -- at the people who in a time of crisis failed to step forward and help those who needed it the most. But while that's a story that can't be told enough, it's also one that's been told before, and what makes Trouble the Water something unique is the drama, tragedy, and resilience Tia Lessin and Carl Deal find in the lives of Kim and Scott Roberts, people who are both ordinary and heroic as they struggle through what starts as a natural disaster and evolves into something even more devastating. And while Kim and Scott survived Katrina, Trouble the Water never lets us forget how much they and so many others like them lost in the summer of 2005...and will never get back.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Zeitgeist Films
Region Code:
[Wide Screen, Color]
[Dolby Digital Stereo]

Special Features

Deleted and Extended Scenes; Conversations with the Directors, Subjects, Film Critic Richard Roeper and Executive Producer Danny Glover; ; Trouble the Water at the 2008 Democratic National Convention; ; U.S. Theatrical Trailer

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kimberly Rivers Roberts Participant
Scott Roberts Participant
Brian Nobles Participant
Jerome Baham Participant
Kendall "Wink" Rivers Participant
Larry Simms Participant

Technical Credits
Carl Deal Director,Producer
Tia Lessin Director,Producer
David Alcaro Executive Producer
Amir Bar-Lev Producer
Joslyn Barnes Executive Producer
Barry Cole Musical Direction/Supervision
Neil Davidge Score Composer
Danny Glover Executive Producer
Chris Keyland Sound/Sound Designer
Robert "3D" del Naja Score Composer
Todd Olson Executive Producer
PJ Raval Cinematographer
T. Woody Richman Co-producer,Editor
Kimberly Rivers Roberts Cinematographer
Maya Sanbar Associate Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Trouble the Water
1. Live and Direct [9:59]
2. "This Is My Neighborhood" [4:52]
3. Like an Ocean [9:15]
4. Higher Ground [4:47]
5. Wet Nightmare [12:37]
6. Alexandria [11:05]
7. FEMA "limbo land" [4:33]
8. A New Beginning [9:41]
9. "Freedom Exists Somewhere" [2:56]
10. "Amazing" [5:38]
11. Return to France Street [4:03]
12. The Ninth Ward Will Rise [6:19]
13. End Credits/ "Trouble the Waters" [5:07]


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Trouble the Water 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
JayBerg More than 1 year ago
The winner at this year's AFI Silverdocs and Full Frame Film Festival, this extraordinary film literally puts you in the eye of the storm known as Katrina using footage taken firsthand by Kimberly Roberts and her husband Scott-who happened to be residents of the ill-fated 9th Ward. The back story is amazing. Carl & Tia (who previously worked with Michael Moore) were filming in Alexandria, La when they happened upon Kim & Scott who had gone there when they were finally able to retreat from the storm. It seems that shortly before the rain and wind hit, Kim had purchased a camera for $20 on the streets of New Orleans and, instead of filming family events, turned her camera onto the devastation about to hit her neighborhood. Although totally unfamiliar with the camera, she managed to capture the harrowing experience that destroyed her community. Its utter rawness actually gives you a "You Are There" account that no poor Weather Channel reporter could ever convey! You are there as the Scotts' camera trains on the untouched neighborhood, on the initial raindrops, on the flooded streets below the attic where they and other folks were huddled, on the desperate 911 call where their pleas for rescue went for naught because no one was able/willing to rescue them, on the destruction of the 9th Ward after the rains had subsided. All along, Kim gives commentary that only adds to the terror of her surroundings. Although the battery power lasted only 30 minutes during the storm, there is enough pre and post hurricane footage to give the audience the full human impact that no one else could ever provide. Interspersed, Carl & Tia have provided the professional footage of the news reports and interviews that everyone across the country were receiving. After the waters had subsided, Kim and her camera walk the deserted streets. You follow Kim as she happens upon a house holding the remains of a homeless man she happened upon, and warned, just hours before the storm hit. And you are witness to the utter abandonment by their Government-especially after over 100,000 residents were unable to evacuate the city before Katrina hit the shores of Louisiana. (Scott remarks that they felt like they weren't U.S. citizens!) You follow them to a deserted Navy base where there are hundreds of unused beds, but, incredibly, they are turned away by sailors with M-16's. (You later learn that these same soldiers received Presidential commendations for their work in the city in the aftermath!) You watch as they are forced to take up residence in their old school-where their bed is made by pushing desks together. You come to realize what it was like to live in the shoes of the survivors that the news reports could never convey. As depressing as all this sounds, the film is ultimately uplifting and hopeful as it speaks volumes on the capability and fortitude of the human spirit. Kim has gone onto a singing career as a rap artist (as Black Kold Madina) and has even started a recording company (Her on screen performance of one song is quite inspiring and three of her songs grace the soundtrack.) Scott felt the need to do meaningful work and has succeeded in helping to rebuild his community-instead, as he says, of making drinks in a French Quarter bar. A small quibble: The filmmakers have correctly supplied subtitles for the heaviest accented New Orleaneans. I had just wished they had used it more as a lot of Kim's narration is indecipherable. Other than that
Donna-Marie More than 1 year ago
Trouble the Water is a must see film! I have seen it numerous times and have shared it with friends and family members! The real time footage is breathtaking, the courage and kindness of the people of New Orleans is inspiring and the response of the government is truly eye-opening. You will want to view this film more than once!!! Fabulous!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extremely troubling and reflective not only of what happened during Katrina, but what's going on in neighborhoods across the country. Please see this movie.
proud More than 1 year ago
"This film is great the best documentary of hurricane Katrina I have ever seen, thanks to the girl that filmed during the hurricane and afterwards she did a great job. I wanted to say thanks to HBO for giving her a chance to put this out there, and now it is coming out on DVD this is wonderful. Katrina affected my area also, I live in mobile al; it is films like this that tell the real story. This is a powerful documentary of what really happened thanks to all that had a part in getting this out!"