The context of this film is important: Hurricane Katrina and its after math are supposed to be resolved issues now, in terms of the media focus, and in terms of what the government and society learned from the disaster, (which we can surely guess was not enough, or in the case of the government probably nothing).
The mainstream media is more likely to approach New Orleans now as a story of statistics, (how many people have returned), of the allocation of federal relief money and the problems associated with that, of developer's dreams for the city, etc...These are all important issues, but they don't give a continuing, lasting picture of the Dust Bowl-like tragedy of the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Katrina.
The media reports that I remember, mostly from the Newshour, didn't give quite the on-the-ground perspective and grit that this film does. Throughout 2006 the Newshour gave many reports from the Gulf Coast, which is commendable, but they weren't incredibly motivating. They tended to show some images of flood damage from the region, then a town hall-like gathering with N.O. citizens and a hapless FEMA representative, then a few personal looks at how single individuals were faring.
From what I remember, Katrina was presented as a regional story, and not something that affects all of us in this country.
Walidah's film gives the on-the-ground perspective that I, personally, haven't seen on the topic of post-Katrina New Orleans, save for one or two Nation articles, and possibly some other journalists' reports. We all need to sense what it's like to drive (or walk) through a landscape of chaos like that, passing by military vehicles.
It was unlike anything in U.S. history: first, the neglect of the disaster. Second, foregoing disaster relief for occupation. The media spewed out some exaggerated stories of people out of control, so disaster relief and control became tragically intertwined.
What I saw in the film was not just a sense of being there, but also the filmmaker's connection to New Orleans and what was happening there. I was struck not just by seeing a film that brought a new perspective to post-Katrina New Orleans, but also by the music, the sound of the wind, and the lasting imagery: bright sunlight coming into a wrecked church, the badly decomposed body of a dog, a flooded out cemetery with caskets scattered everywhere.
The early scene in the film that shows Malik Raheem, founder of Common Ground, walking his dog is encouraging. In the midst of chaos, he was able to do a normal, everyday thing.
Far from being a resolved matter, post-Katrina New Orleans is a matter that needs to be continually looked at from new perspectives such as the one that this film brings.
Thanks to Walidah and Suncere for presenting the two films and for the after-film discussion.