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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Where are all the movies about Hurricane Katrina?

New Orleans Times-Picayune film critic Mike Scott asked an excellent question over the weekend:

Where are all the movies about Hurricane Katrina?

From NOLA.com:

[F]ive years after the storm dumped a tragedy on New Orleans, and nine months after The Weinstein Co. dumped “Hurricane Season” [which would have been the first Katrina-centered Hollywood film] unceremoniously as a direct-to-DVD release — New Orleans still is waiting for that first major Katrina movie.

There have been a number of narrative films that have referenced the storm — movies such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” But the storm in those films and others like them is only a peripheral element, tacked onto an existing script as an afterthought.

Why is a Katrina film necessary? Scott continues:

For many local movie buffs, it’s a source of both irritation and frustration — first, because a “real” Katrina film would serve as a way of validating our pain, standing as recognition from The Outside of all that we have endured and all that we have accomplished in the past five years. Second, because those of us who lived through the first five years of the Katrina rebuild know just how many great untold stories there are in the city, how many emotional tales there are in Gentilly, how many unbelievable stories live in eastern New Orleans, and how many absolute heartbreakers reside in the Lower 9th Ward.

Surely, it’s not still too soon to tell them. After all, Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” went into production in October 2005 — four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It landed in theaters in August 2006, just before the fifth anniversary. Paul Greengrass’ “United 93” arrived even earlier, in April 2006.

So where are the Katrina movies?

Where indeed? What’s the holdup? Will we ever see a film that can encapsulate the hugeness of the disaster?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Nate

    No one made a movie about Hurricane Andrew, did they?

    You know, I always get annoyed when people complain about what films they want to see instead of making them themselves. Even if one did get made I can bet some of these people still wouldn’t be satisfied with it.

  • RogerBW

    K-Ville got canned after ten episodes – but it was on Fox, and in most respects it was a generic cop show.

    I think some of the reluctance may be a tendency towards escapism in “big” film-making at the moment, even more than usual. Audiences don’t particularly want to hear about how things were messed up, and the whole thing played out over too long a time to make a typical action film.

    Actually something like “Hard Rain with a French accent” might be the best bet – stay away from the politically sensitive bits, and just tell a basic short-term story of survival.

  • Nate

    Actually something like “Hard Rain with a French accent” might be the best bet – stay away from the politically sensitive bits, and just tell a basic short-term story of survival.

    Yeah, but then critics will accuse it of “playing it safe” and being too cliched.

  • RogerBW

    Sure, that film won’t make everyone happy. No film will – if it’s a big political thing about all the thorough incompetence that was going on, it’ll have to be released in December as Oscar-bait and about ten people will see it, because lots of people are stupid enough to equate “there particular guys screwed up on this occasion” to “we hate everything this party claims it stands for”.

    American political discourse has been utterly poisoned. Who’s to blame doesn’t matter; the point is that any film with any sort of political point to make will be pre-judged by most of the people who might watch it.

  • Geoff

    For a script to encompass both the overwhelming aspect of the storm and flood afterwards (must do both), AND the incompetence/ inaction / peoples’ rescue, etc., that would take a 3 hr. + film (which the topic deserves) and some prodigious screenwriting talent.

    If you just use Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge as source material, you’d have plenty of stuff to work with.

    You’d also need a ballsy director who didn’t care about politics and wants the best story on film, w/o sentimentality if possible. Pathos, yes. And a studio to back all of this up.

  • Hank Graham

    The major film about Katrina already exists–check out Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke.”

    Lee really rose to the occasion, putting his formidable talent to work on a very moving (and enraging) account of it.

  • Natalie

    I’ll assume this is not the movie they want but I recently watched a documentary, MINE, about pet owners in New Orleans who were forced to leave their pets behind because the stadium or elsewhere would take them. So many animals were rescued but the system to catalog them and return them to their owners was faulty. By the time people were let back into their homes their pets were gone with no information on how to obtain them. The shelters became so overcrowded that animals were sent as far as California to be taken care of; eventually adopted. Some adoptive families were kind and returned the animals and others refused. While this is may be pale in the face of loss of (human)life, still its a concern. What structure should be set up moving forward for rescue/return of displaced pets?

  • Natalie

    my apologies, I meant to say,

    I’ll assume this is not the movie they want but I recently watched a documentary, MINE, about pet owners in New Orleans who were forced to leave their pets behind because the stadium or elsewhere would NOT take them.

  • allochthon

    Whatever happened to New Orleans, Mon Amour?

  • Pollas

    There are plenty of them…they’re mostly just non-fiction and on TV. I think the fact that five years later Hurricane Katrina is still being discussed in the media and by our president should be clear enough that the “Outside” recognizes and validates the victims’ pain and what they’ve endured.

  • mortadella

    Well, there’s HBO’s Treme.

  • Lisa

    yes Hank Graham When the Levees Broke is an amazing piece of work. It leaves you furious at the great evil that was done to the people of New Orleans, there’s no word in the English language for it.

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