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Film Shows Close-Up View Of Katrina Survival

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Film Shows Close-Up View Of Katrina Survival

Katrina & Beyond

Film Shows Close-Up View Of Katrina Survival

Film Shows Close-Up View Of Katrina Survival

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94081648/94095801" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Executive Producer Josyn Barnes (left), with documentary subjects Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts, and their daughter, Skyy, at a screening of Trouble the Water on Aug. 21 in New York. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images hide caption

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Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Executive Producer Josyn Barnes (left), with documentary subjects Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts, and their daughter, Skyy, at a screening of Trouble the Water on Aug. 21 in New York.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Trouble The Water

Visit the film's Web site to learn more about the documentary and to watch an excerpt.

A week before Hurricane Katrina decimated parts of the Gulf Coast in August 2005, Kim Rivers Roberts bought a video camera.

"My state of mind was like, this could come in handy," Rivers Roberts tells Steve Inskeep. "My plan was just to film something I could sell."

So when the aspiring rap artist and her husband, Scott, became trapped in New Orleans' Ninth Ward by deadly floodwaters, she turned that camera on herself and her neighbors. What she filmed became part of a documentary, Trouble The Water, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

'Praying And Shooting'

"They were at ground zero, and most of the footage that we'd seen on TV [was] from a mile high, you know –- helicopters, news crews scanning the area for survivors," says Tia Lessin, one of the filmmakers who made that footage part of the documentary. "What Kimberly showed us was this sort of inside-out look at what they went through."

The amateur video shows the water creeping from their yard, onto the porch, into the living room and finally filling the house, pushing the Robertses into their attic.

"I was praying and shooting, that's what got me through," Rivers Roberts says.

Eventually, they were forced out of the attic; they used a punching bag to help them wade down the river that had been their street. But they managed to keep the video camera dry.

"I didn't want to mess up the camera 'cause I knew what I had recorded — it was powerful, it was history," she says.

After The Storm

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Lessin's film crew was moving through Louisiana when they came across Rivers Roberts and her husband. The couple pushed in front of the camera, eager to talk about the video they had shot as the floodwaters rose in their home.

"When we saw the footage, I mean, it was extraordinary," Lessin says.

The crew decided to follow Rivers Roberts and her husband, chronicling their journey after the storm.

Rivers Roberts lived in Memphis for six months before returning to New Orleans. It was hard for the couple to get jobs without high school diplomas, so as soon as they could, they returned home.

"We moved back to New Orleans, where they had jobs available now, all of a sudden," she explains. "The storm come, now everybody could get a job."

They started off doing construction work, gutting houses. They met a man whom Rivers Roberts says taught them some job skills and paid them decent wages.

This helped her start her record label, Born Hustler Records. Her first album, Troubled The Water, will be released today.

"We think the story is about her survival," says Lessin. "But the story starts there, it doesn't end there."