An eye-opening expose’ welcoming white Americans to the Third World
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Running time: 76 minutes
Studio: Carnivalesque Films
DVD Release Date: June 30, 2009
DVD Extras: Over an hour of additional material including follow-ups on people in the film.
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Excellent (4 stars)
Because of the indelible images of masses of black people abandoned on rooftops, under highway overpasses and at the Superdome, many people might think that only African-Americans were adversely affected by Hurricane Katrina. But the disaster took a terrible ongoing toll on po’ white folk, too, as chronicled in this compelling documentary directed by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon.
The film follows the efforts of Ms. Pearl, an altruistic Native-American woman who, with the approval of her husband, David Cross, converted their backyard in to a tent village for locals left homeless in the wake of the flood that devastated the region a couple of years ago. David operates a construction company and is willing to employ anyone camping out on the premises in order to help them get back on their feet. In fact, he establishes certain house rules, including no drugs and a mandate that everyone there find work of some kind, even if not with his company.
Unfortunately, the rent-free offer turns out to be flypaper for the disturbed, and what begins as a utopian oasis gradually turns into a neverending nightmare. One guy snaps and literally tries to strangle his girlfriend because she asked him to find her a pot to pee in. Another man is asked to leave because he was pressuring a pregnant woman to get high.
Unsavory characters are attracted to the area by a resident who starts dealing crack, while a delusional mental patient who calls himself The Prophet roams around mumbling to himself incoherently about this being the Apocalypse. A couple is kicked out after stealing a Tiffany lamp from the bedroom of the owners, and a rape victim warns another female to sleep with one eye open. So, it’s clear that what David and Ms. Pearl are dealing with here are the dregs of humanity, but the question is whether the squatters were already like this before Katrina or only bottomed-out after losing all their earthly possessions in the blink of an eye.
This picture is often touching, such as when the hosts play Santas at Christmastime and try to fill each person’s wish list. Surprisingly, most of the requests are for mundane, everyday items, like toilet paper or a tool bag. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't exactly end on an upbeat note, since the toll takes a heavy emotional toll on everyone, including Ms. Pearl.
Plus, the mother of the newborn surrenders the baby for foster care, and another young woman suffers seizures from snorting coke. Mayor Nagin makes a cameo appearance to crush these displaced folks’ hopes for a helping hand by ending free meal and mental health programs and generally championing corporate interests over those of the longtime locals.
An eye-opening expose’ welcoming white Americans to the Third World.