The punchline first: Watch this film now.
Most documentaries are such somber and sobering accounts of reality that I can’t bring myself to view them. D has been trying to get me to watch The Dark Side and Lovesick near on a year now and I keep putting it off because I’m an internalizer. How people and things really are distracts me for days, when I already live in a town of too much reality. But, that’s the thing – too much reality for me is too little for someone else. So, no matter the emotional consequences, we educate ourselves on other people, where they are, how they live and what they do. Without curiosity and empathy that extend beyond ourselves and our immediate surroundings, we are nothing.
When Karen urged us to watch Frontline’s The Old Man And The Storm, I swallowed hard and clicked Play on the program, available in its entirety on the website. To my surprise, I couldn’t stop watching it and kept wanting more. All the way from June Cross’s words, “You could read them all and not comprehend what it means when 500,000 families are displaced, what it means to lose 200,000 homes, 220,000 jobs, 600 congregations,” I was hooked. Not because this is a documentary that spotlights the troubles that my city has experienced in the last three-plus years, but because Ms. Cross did a damned fine job (although her pronunciation of the word “hurricane” is, well, different). The film properly captures the plight of the lower middle class and working poor attempting to rebuild their homes and lives while being pushed back by the government forces of delay and incompetence. With an eye to culture and history for context, this is sophisticated documentation – no Rah Rah New Orleans here, just reality. Ms. Cross and Mr. Gettridge, our hardworking sweetheart of a protagonist, tell it like it is.
Do me a favor. If you watch or read nothing about New Orleans for the rest of your life, watch this documentary. Just do it.
Update: The movie reminded me of some key government decisions made in the wake of the storm and flood. E reviews a few of these historical thumbtacks and ties them with what’s going on in the city today.