Spinal Tap's Harry Shearer Bringing His Katrina Documentary to Houston

Categories: Movies

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Harry Shearer: Bringing the Katrina story to the Alamo Drafthouse
Harry Shearer, known for being one-third of Spinal Tap, one-half (it seems) of The Simpsons and just about all of the syndicated radio program Le Show, has adopted New Orleans as home.

He's become wrapped up in the city's recovery from Katrina, and the events that led to its devastation.

Angered that officials -- including President Obama -- kept referring to the event as "a natural disaster,' Shearer put together a documentary showing how piss-poor the Army Corps of Engineer's levee system was and why it was doomed to fail.

He's been taking the movie around the country (and winning awards) for a while now, and Houston -- home to so many Katrina evacuees -- is finally getting its stop.

The Big Uneasy will play at the Alamo Drafthouse at West Oaks April 29, and Shearer will attend a conduct a Q&A session afterwards.

Shearer describes on the film's website how he put the film together quickly (but carefully) in order to capitalize on media attention for Katrina's fifth anniversary.

He decided not to distract matters by being in the film much himself, and made other choices:

Given the mass media's sentimentalism about the subject matter (one network anchor told me, when I asked why viewers of the broadcast didn't yet know why the city had flooded, "We just think the emotional stories are more compelling for our audience"), I determined to make a film filled with the facts of the story.

That meant a relatively information-dense movie, which led me to make two other choices: really good-looking cinematography and vivid animation of the concepts being discussed. I never wanted a moment when people would think they were watching an educational film.

The film has gotten awards and favorable reviews (It's "a cogent 98-minute investigative chronicle that, along with Spike Lee's pair of HBO films, is an indispensable part of any history of New Orleans before, during and after Katrina," The New York Times said), and now, finally it's in Houston.

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13 comments
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Gary_Gilmore
Gary_Gilmore

Wait! Its still cool to make Katrina documentaries?

big red
big red

Katrina is old news by now, and the media obsession with a city that is predominately black and had, at the time, a black mayor is what is driving all this. Hurricanes are a bitch. When you live on the coast, it is the risk you run. Somehow, the aftermath of hurricanes Ike and Rita are totally forgotten, but if you travel to the Golden Triangle, you still see the effects of Rita. And contrary to conventional wisdom, Galveston is far from totally recovered. As far as Katrina, all we hear about is New Orleans. Not a word about Mississippi. Guess it was not black enough.

Wyatt
Wyatt

So natural disasters that affect black people get more coverage. But white people (Holloway) win the individual disappearances award. Interesting!

The destruction was bad in Mississippi. With apologies to Gulfport/Biloxi, there were no major metropolitan areas with the cultural significance of New Orleans that were nearly destroyed in one fell swoop by faulty engineering.

Mandatory evacuation
Mandatory evacuation

Cultural significance has nothing to do with it.

Wyatt
Wyatt

I don't mean in the sense of personal importance. In terms of national (and international) consciousness, though, it is much more influential than anywhere else on the coast.

Oh Brother
Oh Brother

Hey, if you want to believe it's more culturally important, go right ahead. We all have opinions.

Wyatt
Wyatt

A destruction of a city of *national* cultural importance is going to to get more coverage than the destruction of areas that lack that trait.

New Orleans has more cultural importance than...well, pretty much anywhere on the Gulf Coast. Not sure how you could argue otherwise.

That does not mean an individual in Long Beach or East Texas or wherever deserves any less sympathy or assistance when disasters strike. It does mean the media coverage is going to be less intense.

Wouldn't argue about the foolishness of ignoring evacuation orders.

Mandatory Evacuation
Mandatory Evacuation

The reason it got so much coverage is unlike the other cities that were hit by the storm, the people of N.O. foolishly decided to ignore mandatory evacuations. In a city below sea level. The media whores love to show people in despair. It's their bread and butter.

Mandatory Evacuation
Mandatory Evacuation

So if you say it deserves more coverage because of it's "cultural significance", that's hard fact? No ifs, ands, or buts about it? Wyatt said so.

Wyatt
Wyatt

Good point, excellent supporting arguments.

Kelli
Kelli

However, Galveston is nearly wiped off the map and noone seems to give a shit. In the aftermath of Ike, there was no telethon to raise funds, there was no media coverage, no anger over the lack of help from FEMA, no rush to save these people from the lack of EVERYTHING etc etc etc. Give me a freaking break. I lived in Houston and I was without power for over two weeks, no food, no ice, no gas, noone is making a documentary about Ike.

Wyatt
Wyatt

...possibly because it was hit hard by a hurricane, as opposed to completely flooded thanks to human error?

I'm not downplaying natural disasters or the terrible shit that people go through when they happen. I'm not saying New Orleanians deserve anymore sympathy or assistance than those who suffered equally in other disasters. But when it comes to coverage and examination, it's a different animal altogether when the disaster could have been avoided if the humans in charge had done their jobs correctly. The same can't be said for most storms.

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