Arts and Entertainment

Trouble the Waters reflects risidual strife of Katrina

By Denebola
Published: October 2008

By Alex Caron

Even if you have to drive out to Western Massachusetts to catch a show, go out and see Trouble the Water. This film might just change the way you think about America.

Although my brother is the editor of this film, his influence on my passion for it is negligible. Instead, Kimberly and Scott Rivers, the documentary’s subjects, took me on a journey that I feel the need to share with everyone.

On August 28, 2005, the day that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Kimberly Rivers stared death in the face through the lens of a stolen camcorder.

Unable to evacuate her Ninth Ward home, Rivers and husband Scott invited neighbors into their home to brave the storm. As the levees continued to blow open, the captives punched holes in the roof and prepared to jump.

Before she could jump, however, Ms. Rivers spotted a rival drug dealer floating on a punching bag and rescuing people. Their mutual animosity was swept away by the water as they united to save their community.

Critics have been quick to embrace this film because it contains 15 minutes of direct footage that allows us to experience the storm with the victims the whole time, but for me, this was a mere accessory.

I was most taken by Ms. Rivers’ optimistic attitude, she refers to Katrina as “a bad chick, yet she never gives in. She stands in front of the camera and for five minutes bares her soul as she raps about her scarred history: living with a crack-addicted mother who died of AIDS, dropping out of school to avoid homelessness, selling drugs because she couldn’t get a job, and surviving. “I don’t need you to tell me that I’m amazing, she concludes. We see and feel this sentiment throughout this film.

In spite of a society that doesn’t serve communities like the Ninth Ward, she is able to stand in front of a camera, and tell us that she is amazing.

My brother invited my mother and me to the New York premiere of Trouble the Water a few months ago. Mr. and Ms. Rivers were sitting in the back row of the theatre – both were calm and silent throughout the film.

Later, critics would call them martyrs, but, back in New York, they were Kim, Scott, and new baby Skyy, watching their lives stretched out and compressed at the same time on a giant screen. I had the pleasure of meeting them after the movie. I held Skyy while Kimberly greeted her new followers.

At the Q&A at the New York premiere, my brother Woody Caron noted that Trouble the Water extends far beyond August 28th and its aftermath – this movie is about the “Katrinas that rape inner-cities day after day all over the United States.

Entrusted with the actual storytelling of the film, he chose not to pin the blame on the Bush administration, or any single person. Rather, Katrina exposed fundamental problems plaguing our society: “If you don’t have money, and you don’t have status, then you don’t have a government.

This is not a partisan issue – this is an American issue. He contended that Trouble The Water is the most important story he’s told, “It’s the most real, he said. His words resonated as I sat with Skyy on my lap, observing the people swarming around Skyy’s mother – embracing her, crying with her, worshipping her.

I couldn’t help but wonder how different Skyy’s life may be after Katrina, after this film. Has anything even changed in the two years since Katrina? Can one powerful film change the way we think? The answers lie in the Rivers’ triumphant story – go see for your selves.

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