Kaid Benfield Archive


Trouble the Water – a note from NOLA

Kaid Benfield

Posted March 10, 2008 at 4:20AM

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A scene from Trouble the Water: Kim and Scott Roberts return home

Trouble the Water is the name of a new documentary film about the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.  At this point, I bet I’ve seen a half-dozen such films, but this one is the best.

What sets it apart is that it tells the story from the inside out, and from the point of view of a single remarkable couple, Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts, who were stuck in their home Ninth Ward during the storm, hanging on to rowboats and rooftops and trying to help their neighbors, while recording on a home camcorder that Kim had bought on the street for $20 just days before.  Their video and as-it-happened narration was edited and supplemented by that of veteran documentary filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, whose own concept for a Katrina documentary had fallen through and who happened to meet the Robertses via a chance encounter at a shelter in middle Louisiana after the storm.  Lessin and Deal were the right people at the right time, and filmed Kim and Scott’s return to their home.

Scott Roberts and Kimberly Rivers Roberts 

I was lucky enough to see an extended clip of Trouble the Water last week while in New Orleans for Regional Equity ’08, a conference that tied together issues of social equity and land use (among others).  One of the conference’s plenary sessions featured the film, with appearances by Kim and Scott, Tia and Carl, and noted actor/activist Danny Glover, who is producing the work.  Do watch the short video that weaves some of the film’s scenes with perspective added by its principals, and you’ll see what I mean.

Adding an amazingly upbeat note to their story of survival, Kim actually gave birth to a daughter during the Sundance Film Festival, where Trouble the Water won the Grand Jury Prize as best documentary.  Deal hurried her and Scott from the festival to a hospital in a snowstorm!

Kim Roberts is also a musician who performs under the name Black Kold Medina, and you can listen to clips of her work here.  The lady’s got talent.

The recovery of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast still has a long way to go, with extraordinary challenges remaining, but I for one am encouraged by the fact that at least they have some of the best planning minds in the country on the job.  Go here to read about some of the planning effort.