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May 13, 2011

The Big Uneasy

Big_uneasy If there's one point that Harry Shearer's deftly astute documentary brings home, about New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, it's that the disaster was manufactured by the Army Corps of Engineers. It was not a "natural disaster." And, it was entirely preventable. As a part-time resident of New Orleans, Shearer ushers through his act of cinematic investigative journalism with a conversational tone that works well. What could easily have been a stiff dissertation is made enjoyable by things like the film's recurring "Ask a New Orleanian" segment in which John Goodman repeats erroneous media-propagated questions about The Big Easy, that are responded to with clear and concise answers. Using archive footage, maps, and expressive graphics, Shearer shows and explains how and why the levees broke. Interviews with post Katrina investigators Robert Bea (a UC Berkeley professor), hurricane expert Ivor van Heerden (co-founder and deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center & associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at LSU), and Maria Garzino (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers engineer and contract specialist-turned-whistle-blower) deliver an enormous amount of information without bogging the movie down. 

The facts about the ways and reasons the U.S. Government aggressively mishandled, and continue to mismanage, New Orleans presents a study into our system's endemic corruption that continues to pour trillions of taxpayer dollars into fundamentally reckless pursuits. When a Dutch engineer explains a more organic approach to solving the water issue in New Orleans it rings with an organic truth that is alien to the U.S. Government's broken system. Every American politician and citizen should see this engaging documentary.

Rated R. 109 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)


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