The Film Trouble the Water and the Book A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge - Offering Insight Into One of the Worst Disasters Hurricane Katrina

The Film Trouble the Water and the Book A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge - Offering Insight Into One of the Worst Disasters Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina is considered one of the worst disasters in the US history causing death and destruction especially in New Orleans. Years after the storm, people still struggle to make sense of it even those who have returned to their homes or to some semblance of a normal life. The film Trouble the Water and the book A.D New Orleans After the Deluge offer great insights to events of Katrina through use of many rhetorical strategies and documentary conventions.

In the film, Trouble the Water, the directors tell the story through the eyes of a main character and her circle of friends and family. By using her amateur video as flashback to the opening of the story, the viewers witnessed the full measure of chaos, devastation, and bureaucratic breakdown that characterized the aftermath of Katrina. Her footage and commentary that accompanies it are raw and unpolished, offering viewers an unparalleled vantage point on the experience of the hurricane itself. In the process, they also tell a much larger story of how race and poverty amplified the effects of the storm. On the contrary, the author of A.D New Orleans after the Deluge, use multiple character perspective to provide different viewpoint. He combined the dialogue of these characters with graphic illustrations to give the story a powerful visual appeal and creates dramatic tension. Through the graphic images, the author draw the suffering of those waiting in the heat for days, people turned back at a bridge by misguided soldiers, starving young, and the dying old, or rats seeking higher grounds. People can draw sharp perspectives through this means in both the film and the book.

The film directors on trouble the water kept the film intimate using a direct cinema style, instead of sit-down interviews and narration. The film is predominantly shot handheld with available lighting, recording real life as it happen. Slow camera movement creates a visual style and effect that gave the viewers the feeling they are going through it first-hand. In filming the deserted 9th ward, FEMA office, construction work site, or the funeral, framing and composition often from a lower angle were visible which left the audience looking up at the film’s subjects. The book on the other hand is the work of comic journalism, meaning the writer used in-scene dramatization and dialogue. The author, uses full-page spread in between the episodes with visual images to communicate the state of things and the drawing and panels on pages relay the fear and terror felt by the character. This technique allows the readers to stop and meditate on images that often passed by so quickly on the news or in films. We can linger on the images of suffering and heroism in ways that the rapidity of other media like film will not allow.

The book and the film both, made significant use of contrast and Juxtaposing to show the reality in New Orleans with what was happening in Washington the morning of the storm. We saw quick glimpses of local and national coverage against Kim’s personal story, and as the Roberts and their neighbors huddle in an attic at 8am, we saw FEMA director telling the early show that FEMA is “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.” President Bush gave a televised address telling the hurricane victims to listen to the local authorities and the film shows Roberts attic, no electricity, viewing through a window at a ragging storm. The mayor ordered mandatory evacuation and the screen shows no public transportation provided by the city. The book made use of these contrast mainly through binaries. We saw juxtaposition between “haves” and “have not”, “bad people” or “good people”, “black and whites”, “freedom or being trapped.”

The tone of the characters at the start of both the book and the film was portrayed as upbeat, positive and hopeful that they will survive the storm. This was contrasted against a the attitude of the characters later on to illustrated significant shift in tone as their expectations differed from the reality of their experiences. The book uses different colorization of the scenes like dark, dull etc. to capture the changing mood of the characters as the events unfolded. The film portrayed this through different sounds and changing music from hip hop to blues to jazz to capture the shifting tone as the story progress.

Through these means, both the film and the book succeeded in documenting a tragic event and created a life affirming, inspirational, and hopeful story that celebrates New Orleans and its citizens.