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Katrina Survivors Score a Sundance Hit

Two days before Katrina hit, small-time hustler, sometime drug dealer, and nonstop motormouth Kim Roberts bought a used video camera for twenty bucks. Then she filmed as she and her husband, Scott, helped 25 neighbors survive and escape the waters. Over the last two days in Park City, Utah, Roberts premiered their doc Trouble the Water to standing ovations — and gave birth to a seven-pound, one-ounce baby girl named Skyy. At an underwhelming Sundance (so far), she and her husband are the festival’s most outrageous Cinderella story.

Directed by doc vets Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, the film relies heavily on the narrated footage Roberts shot inside the Ninth Ward as the hurricane destroyed everything they knew (Cloverfield’s got nothing on this). Roberts interviewed locals who were too poor or incapacitated to leave (including one drug addict whose corpse she discovered during a return visit). She filmed the view from inside a swamped attic packed with women and found one real-life hero: a tall neighbor who rescued women and children on his floating punching bag. The film, which hasn’t yet sold but will soon, is a devastating firsthand document and a potent indictment of bureaucratic negligence.

Kim and Scott Roberts are unrepentant hustlers who only survived Katrina by luck and street smarts (they appear to have escaped in a stolen truck). Kim’s mother was a crack addict who died of AIDS-related complications; Scott is a former heroin addict who grew up fatherless in New Orleans housing projects. Both dealt drugs; both were nearly washed away by Katrina. Now both are trying to rebuild their lives — Scott as a carpenter, Kim as a rapper. We’ll cover the film more when it opens, but for now, here’s an exclusive clip from the movie, shot in the Ninth Ward, and a new track by Kim, a.k.a. Black Kold Madina, featured on the soundtrack. —Logan Hill

Video courtesy Elsewhere Films. Audio courtesy Born Hustler Records.

Katrina Survivors Score a Sundance Hit