Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Katrina's Children" shows at DC Environmental Film Festival

On Wednesday, March 18, 2009, The Environmental Film Festival of the Nation’s Capital (site) presented the film “Katrina’s Children” (site) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts near Metro Center. The director is Laura Belsey, who was present for the Q&A for an audience of about 100. The production company is Shadow Films and the Distributor is Ostrow.

The film presents nineteen grade-school age children who (with their families) were victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in various neighborhoods. A technique in the film is to take art drawn by the kids and animate it. Often, kids drew vortices, which the film would animate in a counterclockwise direction to simulate a hurricane on a weather map. The vortex was shown gobbling up houses and people.

The film shows much of the ravage that remains today in the New Orleans, as well as some footage of the motels and facilities in Houston, Texas where the kids were evacuated. The parents say that the kids barely understand what has happened but they really do, although they often use simple words (like “sad”) to describe complex sense of loss. Their lives have been mugged, and they don’t know why. One African American girl says she would like to be white. “Katrina” is personified as a female villain (I could suggest the wicked grandmother “Kate” in the soap “Days of our Lives”).

Belsey says she spent over 500 hours filming, and had to spend a lot of time living the life of a returning resident, spending a lot of time with the kids and gaining their trust as well as that of the parents. This is a case where a filmmaker really needed outstanding social skills, an idea not discussed that often in independent film production conferences.

I still wonder why America’s housing industry, which was so wasteful during the financial bubble, could not respond in a more robust fashion to rebuild New Orleans. Why expect so much of volunteers picking up hammers (and often volunteers are not allowed inside moldy houses anyway)? Should all neighborhoods, including the Ninth Ward, be rebuilt? Will the levees really be strong enough for a future Category 5?

Picture: my visit to New Orleans in Feb. 2006, near the Industrial Canal

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