Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s documentary Trouble the Water is a devastatingly effective depiction of the experience and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It isn’t the first: Spike Lee’s exhaustive, four-hour When the Levees Broke ran on HBO in 2006. But superb as most of Lee’s movie is, with footage that sticks in your head for months afterward, it starts to repeat itself and devolves into a rant against the ineptitude and negligence of the federal government.
Trouble the Water comes in at a brisk 90 minutes, and though President Bush, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and FEMA director Mike Brown make brief appearances, Lessin and Deal don’t linger with them. The inadequacies of the powers that be are conveyed through the visual evidence and the exasperation of the handful of survivors the movie focuses on.