As far as Katrina documentaries go, you may have felt like there was nothing left to say after Spike Lee's epic lamentation When the Levees Broke. But there are as many stories as there were victims, and each one of them has the utter fascination of an individual life torn to shreds. Kimberly Rivers Roberts' life was already a little ragged when the storm started slashing the Ninth Ward home she shared with her husband, Scott. Her mother had died of AIDS when Kimberly was 13, and the orphaned daughter had resorted to selling drugs to make ends meet. But you don't have to spend very much time with this God-fearing sistah-in-combat-fatigues to see that she's a born survivor, always reaching for higher ground. Unable to evacuate, she holed up in her attic with her family, her neighbors and her Sony camcorder.
Kimberly's eye-of-the-hurricane footage is at the heart of Trouble the Water, Tia Lesson and Carl Deal's documentary about the storm, the flood and the aftermath. And why she didn't receive a co-directing credit is beyond me, because in her own herky-jerky way she delivered the goods, throwing in some color commentary along the way. ("Katrina, she a bad chick.") What happened to her happened to thousands of others, of course, but amid the howling winds and rotting corpses, Kimberly held on to her sense of herself as an artist. A rapper, she lays out her life story in rhymes at one point, and you suddenly realize how incredibly talented she is. Neither Katrina nor FEMA were able to keep her from where she wanted to go. On the contrary, they may have inadvertently provided her with her big break.