Kimberly Rivers Roberts is a 24-year-old aspiring rapper living with her husband Scott in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Kim has recently acquired a $20 consumer-grade camcorder; days prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina she wanders her neighborhood interviewing locals, asking them if they’re scared, why they haven’t evacuated. “It’s going to be a day to remember,” she remarks. As the storm makes landfall and the levee breaks, flooding the city in contaminated water, Kim continues filming—chronicling dramatic rescues and harrowing returns to the city’s devastated outer-districts.
Comprised of Kim’s own footage alongside contemporary news reels and official government statements regarding Hurricane Katrina, Trouble the Water elucidates the potential of ecological crisis to further entrench America’s hierarchies of race and power. Carl Deal and Tia Lessen’s joint-directorial debut premiered at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize; Silverdocs, where it won an Honorable Mention; and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, where it won both the Jury Award and the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights. Trouble the Water was also nominated for Emmys in Outstanding Informational Programming – Long Form and Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Research, as well as the Academy Award for Best Documentary.