Utne Reader Film Reviews: March-April 2009

| March-April 2009

Katrina Close Up
Trouble the Water
(Elsewhere/Zeitgeist; in theaters)

If, by some miracle, the low-fi Hurricane Katrina doc Trouble the Water has won the Oscar for best documentary as you read this, it won’t have been the most amazing feat of the film’s subject, Kimberly Rivers Roberts—not by a long shot. A screen heroine to make Juno look slight and Wanted’s Angelina Jolie wimpy, Roberts is a New Orleans resident who trained her flea-market camcorder on her city’s rising water, traded the footage for top billing in Trouble, rapped her way through the year’s most stirring movie scene, and gave birth to her daughter, Skyy Kaylen, only a day after the film’s world premiere at Sundance—where, naturally, it took the Grand Jury Prize.

Trouble the Water reveals Rivers as a survivor, but also as an artist of rare courage. Professional shooters from every major network (not to mention filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin themselves) couldn’t compete with Rivers for bone-chilling videography from within the eye of the storm. And when Rivers, as her recording alter ego Blackkoldmadina, unleashes her “Amazing” tune to a boom-box beat, one can feel the legends of old Hollywood musicals tapping their feet six feet under. As Rivers has written, “The song explains that with the right tools, we can have a positive effect on the world. But we need the tools.” Through the force of her inspiration, the tools are ours. —Rob Nelson


Starving for Attention
(IFC Films; in theaters and via video on demand)