g The Film Panel Notetaker: Silverdocs - "Trouble the Water" - June 20, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Silverdocs - "Trouble the Water" - June 20, 2008

Tonight at Silverdocs, Tia Lessin's and Carl Deal's Sundance Award-Winning feature documentary Trouble the Water, which tells the account of Hurricane Katrina survivors Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts through their home video footage, was presented at Silverdocs. Lessin and Deal along with Kimberly, Scott and their newborn baby girl were on hand after the screening for a Q&A moderated by Silverdocs' Sky Sitney. There were some questions asked by the audience, but mostly praise and "thank you"s were extolled.

Trouble the Water
AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, MD
June 20, 2008

Sitney: The role of documentary filmmakers is usually to stay objective and not get involved with stories. But when one is involved with documenting catastrophes unfolding, how do you make that decision? How do you create that balance ? What are the boundaries between recording and getting involved?

Lessin: We don't really believe in the myth of objectivity. Any filmmaker or for that matter a journalist who says they're objective is being dishonest. We all have a point of view and some of us express that point of view more strongly. But our points of view is reflected in this film very strongly. You might not hear our voice or see myself or Carl, but Kimberly's, Scott's and our points of view are very much in this film and if you can man that circumstance a week after Katrina and not have a point of view, I think you ought not to be filming.

Sitney: One other thing that's interesting is the way the film's structured time wise that you start with the moment of encounter and then you return two weeks earlier. Can you talk a little about that structure?

Deal: We felt that the entire narrative of Scott and Kim and their journey out of the city was important to tell from beginning to end because it shed so much light on the historic negligence and the bureaucratic screw ups around the storm. Kimberly and Scott filmed just heart-stopping, amazing first-hand point-of-view footage from the ground. We wanted to make the most of it and tell the complete story because there was a Hurricane going on. Kimberly, being the resourceful person she is, when her video camera died, she picked up her still camera, which can record little MPEG files, which you see some of that on the first day when they're stranded on across the street. We felt like grounding the film in the present, being two weeks after the storm when we entered the picture to help make things make a lot more sense. So that every time we went back to the storm, it was a flashback.

Lessin: What we tried to do was also incorporate when Kimberly's battery went out, there was still four more days that took them to get out of the city, so we used footage that we found that approximated what they might have seen on their journey out of the city. It was necessary for us to go back and forth in time for storytelling.

Q: I was just in the Lower 9th Ward this weekend and I was trying to pick out where your neighborhood is. I think that a lot of the 9th Ward was still under water, but your neighborhood wasn't. Can you tell us a little about that?

Scott: Our neighborhood was under water for maybe a month. We stayed basically three blocks away from the levee and the water just rushed in and stayed.

Kimberly: The Lower 9th Ward is divided by one bridge. The Lower 9th Ward is over the bridge. We were on the other side and that's two blocks from the industrial canal.

Q: How did you decide before the storm to start doing the videotaping? What was going through your mind? Why did you decide you wanted to document what was happening?

Kimberly: I purchased the camera I had used a week maybe or so before the storm came. My purpose for purchasing the camera was to record family events. I had never used a camera before in my life until the day before I started recording. That's not in the movie, but I was just playing with it. Once we realized we were going to stay, I figured that it would be history. Once we realized we couldn't leave, it was like we have no other choice but to stick it out. If it's going to happen how they say it is, we're going to record it. We were like, we can sell this to the news if we get something good. (Audience laughs out loud.) Another aspects was if we die, people would know exactly how we died if they found the tape somehow.

Q: At some point in the movie, you said you hadn't cried yet. At what point did you start crying?

Kimberly: I cry every day. It's deeper now than it was when it was actually happening. I've been seeing psychologists. Through this movie I was able to see myself as a great blessed person.

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At 3:31 PM , Anonymous Chuck said...

Thanks for taking the notes on the Silverdocs screening of Trouble the Water. I saw it at Full Frame and really appreciated it quite a bit, but this provides so much more background on the history of teh film's production. Great stuff.


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