No-Holds Barred “Trouble the Water” Ask What it Means to be An American, Ya Heard Me?

by Scooter & Hum March 8th, 2010

It took three long years to turn incredible footage shot from a flooding attic in the besieged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans into a searing social commentary on what happens when a government turns its back on its own people. It took three long years to finally find the lens that helped turn conversation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from pity to accountability. It took three long years for the floodwaters of Katrina to finally subside enough to unearth “Trouble the Water” amidst the Big Easy’s forgotten, abused and destroyed debris.


BY Brandon Harris, Filmmaker Magazine, December 30, 2009

Trouble the Water named one of the top 50 films of the decade.

Oscar nominee Tia Lessin sees joy in ‘Trouble the Water’

BY Constance Droganes, entertainment, Feb 13, 2009

For those in George W. Bush's inner sanctum who may wish that any evidence of Hurricane Katrina would blow out to sea, they're out of luck at this year's Oscars. If one film could inspire rage over the Bush administration's handling of Katrina, the Oscar-nominated documentary "Trouble the Water" will do it.

Amateur footage of Katrina gives Trouble the Water its grim reality


Talk about being in the wrong place at the right time: Kimberly Rivers Roberts, an aspiring rapper and self-described "street hustler" living in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, had just recently purchased a Sony camcorder in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into her city.

Like too many other residents of their predominantly African-American neighborhood, Kimberly and her husband, Scott Roberts, lacked the wherewithal to evacuate, so they stayed put. At first, Kimberly was happy to play the part of "interviewer," pointing her camcorder at relatives and neighbors while asking how they would ride the storm. But then the rains came. Kimberly and Scott, along with a handful of others, wound up warily watching from their attic while waters from breached levees flooded the streets - to the point of submerging stop signs - outside their home. And throughout it all, Kimberly continued to operate her camcorder, instinctively capturing indelible images that are the heart of a powerful new movie aptly titled Trouble the Water.

Talk about getting what you need when you can't get what you want: Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, veteran documentarians who had worked with Michael Moore on Fahrenheit 9/11, journeyed to Alexandria, La., in September 2005, hoping to make a movie about Louisiana National Guardsmen, newly redeployed from Iraq, who were charged with restoring order to post-Katrina New Orleans. But military officials proved uncooperative, and the documentarians were ready to go home when they ran into Kimberly and Scott Roberts at a Red Cross shelter.

Eye of the storm was on the ground with a video camera

BY LISA KENNEDY, Denver Post, October 17, 2008

A tale of natural and civic catastrophe, "Trouble the Water" is also a frank yet inspired saga about poverty, survival and what lies beyond.

Movie Review: ‘Trouble the Water’ Documentary goes to Katrina’s ground zero

BY BARBARA VANCHERI, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 16, 2008

"Trouble the Water," which makes excellent use of music, is an unvarnished story of the powerless and the people who lost everything ... except their faith in starting over and the comfort of home.

“Trouble the Water” captures Katrina through a survivor’s point of view

By John Hartl Special to The Seattle Times, October 17, 2008

One of the year's most acclaimed nonfiction films, "Trouble the Water" benefits from a uniquely personal approach to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. More than most documentaries, this mosaiclike movie is made up of many pieces, and it's considerably more than the sum of those parts. The veteran directors, Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, started off in one direction, emphasizing Louisiana's National Guard and other stories; in the end, they shot about 200 hours of material.

Trouble the Water | 3 stars

BY ROBERT W. BUTLER The Kansas City Star, October 17, 2008

Amazing song. Amazing story. Amazing woman. Amazing film.

Trouble the Water

BY JOE WILLIAMS, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 9, 2008

The most amazing film of the year introduces us to a superhero - in a documentary about Hurricane Katrina.

Award-winning Katrina documentary treks from New Orleans to Memphis

BY JOHN BEIFUSS, Memphis Commercial-Appeal, September 24, 2008

'm afraid that Hurricane Katrina ranks alongside the so-called War on Terror as a subject that weary Americans want to pretend to forget.

But "Trouble the Water" shouldn't be missed. This documentary - inspired by the remarkable home-movie footage of Ninth Ward resident Kimberly Rivers Roberts, and partly shot in Memphis - is a tribute to human resilience and adaptability. The movie is certainly political (President Bush is shown muttering platitudes at the appropriately named El Mirage RV Resort and Country Club in Phoenix while the storm batters New Orleans), but it's also existential: It chronicles a struggle to survive that transcends bureaucratic incompetence and speaks to the very nature of living in a hostile or at least indifferent and unknowable natural world, even in the 21st century.

Storm Warnings

BY DAVID DENBY, The New Yorker, September 22, 2008

"Trouble the Water," along with Spike Lee's extraordinary four-hour epic, "When the Levees Broke," remains one of the most eloquent records we have of a tragedy that brought out some of the most impressively alive men and women in New Orleans.

Cat 5 Cinema—Post-K doc ‘Trouble the Water’ is as important as it is moving

BY MIKE SCOTT, New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 19, 2008

[A]n utterly magnificent film, one that is as hard to forget as it is to ignore. As such, it is destined to live a long life, in peoples' minds and on scholars' shelves.

‘Trouble the Water’: 4 stars!—Katrina gets a good, deep look from people who were there

BY MICHAEL PHILLIPS, Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2008

Directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal revisit the American tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall a little more than three years ago. Their profoundly humanistic movie won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival, and it does something remarkable: It sells you on American resilience even as it reminds you, in unassailably clear-eyed fashion, that America's stewards bungled the human response to a natural disaster so badly, with such covert and overt racism guiding the decisions made and avoided, you cannot quite believe the breadth of the damage.

Katrina, up close and personal

BY COLIN COVERT, Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 18, 2008

Two political films this week, two very different experiences. While "Battle in Seattle" demonstrates how little can be achieved with first-rate resources and a roster of stars, "Trouble the Water" proves that a couple of gutsy amateurs with a home video camera can work wonders.

Trouble the Water (4 Stars)

BY ROGER EBERT, Chicago Sun-Times, Septemnber 18, 2008

As I write, the hellstorm Ike is battering Texas. I hear of evacuation buses, National Guard troops, emergency supplies, contraflow, Red Cross volunteers, helicopter rescues. It is a different world from the world after Katrina hit New Orleans. Yes, there were noble rescue efforts, but too little and too late, and without enough urgency on the part of the federal ("You're doin' a great job, Brownie!") government.

‘Trouble The Water’ Captures Katrina

BY DAVID EDELSTEIN, Fresh Air from WHYY, NPR, August 29, 2008

What a moment it must have been for documentary filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal when they first bumped into Kimberly and Scott Roberts in a shelter, in the days after the levees broke, when New Orleans' Ninth Ward - where the Roberts' had lived - was still underwater. LISTEN

Review: ‘Trouble the Water’

BY KENNETH TURAN, Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2008

"Trouble the Water," a stirring documentary on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, is more than a keenly dramatic look at how this country treats the poor and dispossessed. It's also a film that was hijacked by its subjects. They saw an opportunity, they took it, and the grand jury prize at Sundance was the result.

Surviving Katrina With a Big Personality and a Video Camera

BY MANOHLA DARGIS, The New York Times, August 22, 2008

Ms. Roberts is such a charismatic figure that she might have overwhelmed this movie. But Mr. Deal and Ms. Lessin have the big picture in mind, not just a personal portrait. Working with the editors T. Woody Richman and Mary Lampson, they have created an ingeniously fluid narrative structure that, when combined with Ms. Roberts's visuals, news material and their own original 16-millimeter film footage, ebbs and flows like great drama.

Trouble the Water (4 stars)

BY JOHN ANDERSON, Newsday, Aug. 22

The how-we-lost-our-home movies taken by New Orleans native Kimberly Roberts during Hurricane Katrina are the spine of "Trouble the Water," a film that's as harrowing for what Mother Nature can do as for what the U.S. government can't. Or won't. Shot predominantly from the attic of their rapidly submerging house during the worst of the storm, Roberts' visual record gives us a palpable sense of impending doom. But it's only after the Robertses - in the company of filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal - return to their battered city their crime-ridden neighborhood that the true, sustained and still-unresolved damage of Katrina becomes so terribly clear.

‘Trouble the Water’: A Firsthand Account of Hurricane Katrina

By S. JAMES SNYDER, New York Sun, August 22, 2008

Unlike Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke," which attempted to reconstruct the events and deconstruct their larger meaning, "Trouble the Water" is less a postmortem than a potent dose of here-and-now. It is a first-person, real-time documentary, built not from archival news footage (though some does appear) but from amateur digital video captured on the streets of New Orleans by the subject of the film, Kim Rivers Roberts. One is hardly surprised to read reports of spontaneous emotional outbursts from the first audiences to see the film at the Sundance Film Festival.


By LOU LUMENICK, New York Post

I thought Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" was pretty much the last word on the national tragedy and disgrace that followed Hurricane Katrina's assault on New Orleans. Maybe not.

Trouble the Water is Must-See

ANNE THOMPSON, Variety, August 22, 2008

Finally my fave film in Sundance is opening.

Trouble the Water

BY PETER TRAVERS, Rolling Stone, August 21, 2008

A star is born. Her name is Kimberly Rivers Roberts. Your never heard of her. Not yet. Roberts didn't write or direct Trouble the Water, the behind-the-camera artistry in this wallop of a movie is handled by the extraordinary team of Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Trouble the Water is a documentary, an unforgettable one...

Soul Survivors

By RICHARD CORLISS, Time Magazine, Aug 21st 2008

And Lessin and Deal know that the best documentaries reveal politics through personalities. In the gritty, buoyant Kim they found a person who symbolized both the lower depths of urban life and the resilience, when faced with an impossible challenge, to rise to a level higher than flood tide. Maybe Kim, Scott and their crew were no angels before Katrina, but that doesn't matter--because in Trouble the Water, we see the lives of the saints.

Trouble the water

By Mina Hochberg | amNew York movie critic, August 21, 2008

When the gusts of Hurricane Katrina started blowing and the news reports began dominating the airwaves, Kimberly Roberts, a local rap artist who was living in the Ninth Ward with her husband, Scott, picked up her video camera and documented the before, during and after of the storm, speaking to neighbors and giving a platform for their tribulations. "Trouble the Water," directed by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, tells the Roberts' story, relying heavily on their captivating firsthand footage.

Trouble the Water

BY CANDACE L., okayplayer, August 18, 2008

The stories of outrage are innumerable. The call to 9-1-1 alone is enough to make you want to march on Washington again. Of all the bad news one can have delivered to them, imagine telling an emergency operator you're drowning in your attic and her response being silence. This person, your only resource to help, on rote reads from a script that no longer serves any purpose, tells you that no rescue team will be sent. Yet Trouble the Water is not a list of grievances put to film. It is a heroic epic showing you what the human spirit can do when put to the test.

Katrina, Stark and Surreal, in Trouble the Water

By Jim Ridley, Village Voice, Aug. 9, 2008

Hurricane Katrina may have driven off a large segment of New Orleans' African-American population. But in one sense the deadly storm was a uniter, not a divider: The devil wind brought together much of the country in contempt of the Bush administration's loose definition of humanitarian aid. Fresh as a slap, the outrage of Katrina's mishandling comes flooding back in Trouble the Water, a documentary account so starkly surreal that at times it seems wrought from another century's folklore.

Trouble the Water (A+) (Five Stars)

by Cole Smithey, August 6, 2008

Winner of the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, "Trouble the Water" is a hybrid documentary--part amateur personalized reportage and to a lesser degree contextualized narrative--that shows the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina and the malicious neglect performed by the U.S. Government against the storm's survivors.

Voice, Eyes and Camera of Katrina Survivors

by MANOHLA DARGIS, The New York Times, March 31, 2008

"...the superb documentary "Trouble the Water," about Hurricane Katrina and its equally calamitous aftermath. One of the best American documentaries in recent memory, the film was directed and produced by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, a couple of New Yorkers who, like much of the rest of the world, were watching television in horror in 2005 as the natural disaster was quickly followed by a human one..."

Back into the Light

by B. Ruby Rich, THE GUARDIAN, January 29, 2008

Rarely have the personal consequences of government malpractice been so well told.

Sundance Review: Trouble the Water

by Kim Voyaar, CINEMATICAL.COM, January 28, 2008

"It's only January, and we aren't even past this year's Oscars yet, but I'll go out on a limb right now and say that I fully expect to see this film nominated for an Oscar next year, and if that happens, it will absolutely deserve to be there."

Review, 4 Stars

by Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, January 28, 2008

This astonishing documentary uses camcorder footage like “Cloverfield,”but the monster is real: Hurricane Katrina and the uncaring governmentresponse that followed. Directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessin made thefind of the century when they met Kimberly and Scott Roberts, whorecorded their experience in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. TheRoberts’ experiences, blended with footage of the couple’s journey awayfrom New Orleans and back, are an emotional testament to survival andhope.

Sundance Awards: Mine

by Peter Travers, ROLLINGSTONE.COM, January 27, 2008

". . . this indelible portrait of New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of a force of nature named Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott Roberts. Gifted filmmkers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal stick it to our absent government and in Kim - who raps her feelings in a voice that demands and deserves a record contract - they have found a human face to put on a national tragedy. Superb in every department."

Sundance: A Star Is Born

by Peter Travers, ROLLINGSTONE.COM, January 25, 2008

. . . the behind-the-camera artistry is handled by the extraordinary team of Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Trouble the Water is a documentary that will pin you to your seat. It's an account of Hurricane Katrina from the inside.

The best of Sundance

by Andrew OHehir, SALON, January 25, 2008

“The romping, stomping, electrified-house vibe at the premiere of this New Orleans documentary was one thing…a transformative story about passion, resilience and heroism among the poorest residents of America’s most downtrodden city.”

Trouble the Water (Review + Background Buzz)

by Nathaniel Rogers, ZOOM-IN.COM, January 24, 2008

In the age of reality TV, where no live unscripted footage ever comes across as truly genuine but performed as “ideas” of reality, Trouble the Water and its brutally intimate journey of two survivors feels rather bracing. It’s a reminder that camcorders are not just toys. And telling your story to the camera is not just exhibitionism. These pervasive American objects and habits can record the truth of experience just as well they can record people lip-synching to pop songs for YouTube. Sometimes they can capture history as it is lived. Trouble in Water is still not reality per se. You’re aware that the footage you’re watching has been edited and scored, and decisions have been made in the telling. But I’ll be damned if Kimberly (Black Kold Madina!), your expressive guide, isn’t keeping it real . . .

At Sundance: Documentaries Take the Day

by Emily Poenisch, VANITY FAIR, Jan 23, 2008

. . . it was a documentary filmed a little closer to home that delivered on a truly exceptional level. Trouble the Water was directed by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal and tells the extraordinary story of Kimberly and Scott Rivers, a couple living in the 9th Ward who rescued a large number of fellow residents when Hurricane Katrina struck . . .

Vulture: Katrina Survivors Score a Sundance Hit

by Logan Hill, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, January 22, 2008

. . . a devastating firsthand document and a potent indictment of bureaucratic negligence.

Reborn, In Film and In Life

by David Carr, NYTIMES.COM, January 21, 2008

Kimberly Rivers, the amazing woman at the heart of “Trouble theWaters,” a documentary about Katrina that has been a huge hit, took abit of time out from Sundance to head down to Salt Lake City and givebirth gave birth to Skyy Kaylen Rivers Roberts, 7 lb, 1 oz. at 6:15this morning. New snow on the mountain and new life in our midst. It’sa lovely day in Park City.

Beyond the Multiplex: Heroes of Katrina, ghost of Gonzo

by Andrew OHehir, SALON, January 21, 2008

“. . . one of those electrifying, emotional, unforgettable experiences that captures Sundance at its very best, . . . Captures a tale of thrilling human drama, terrible tragedy and unbelievable heroism among some of America’s most stigmatized and downtrodden people . . . No human being I can imagine could watch “Trouble the Water” and not be overwhelmed by grief and joy, and humbled by one’s sudden awareness of one’s own prejudices about the lives, passions and dreams of poor people.”

Telling their story: Couples raw footage key to Hurricane Katrina documentary Trouble the Water

by Kenneth Turan, LA TIMES, January 20, 2008

SUNDANCE has always had a real “come-as-you-are” attitude, but itsunlikely anyone has ever shown up as pregnant as Kim Roberts. “Ninemonths and two weeks and I still made it,” she says with pride. Shetook the journey from New Orleans with her doctor’s approval because“it’s an opportunity for me to get the story out. I had to make it, byany means necessary.

Sundance: Trouble moves

by Tatiana Siegel, VARIETY.COM, January 20, 2008

Hurricane Katrina documentary “Trouble the Water” drew a sustained standing ovation following its world premiere Sunday afternoon. The Sundance in-competition pic, which was directed and produced by longtime Michael Moore collaborators Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, featured harrowing footage shot during the storm by 9th Ward resident Kimberly Rivers Roberts (think a real-life version of “Cloverfield” with Katrina subbing for the destructive monster).

Roberts, who was on hand with husband Scott Roberts, told the enthusiastic audience that she bought the camera for $20 about a week before the mammoth storm. “The purpose of this film is to let people know how it really happened,” she said. Exec producer Danny Glover, who also fielded post-screening questions from a still full house, said “We cannot let New Orleans become a template for all inner cities in this country”