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Trouble the Water (2008)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 74
Fresh: 71 | Rotten: 3

This incredible documentary displays the tragedy and mismanagement of Katrina along with the heroism of strangers and survivors.


Average Rating: 8/10
Critic Reviews: 28
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 1

This incredible documentary displays the tragedy and mismanagement of Katrina along with the heroism of strangers and survivors.



liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 1,884

My Rating

Movie Info

"Trouble the Water" takes you inside Hurricane Katrina in a way never before seen on screen. The film opens the day before the storm makes landfall--just blocks away from the French Quarter but far from the New Orleans that most tourists knew. Kimberly Rivers Roberts, an aspiring rap artist, is turning her new video camera on herself and her Ninth Ward neighbors trapped in the city. "It's going to be a day to remember," Kim declares. As the hurricane begins to rage and the floodwaters fill their


Documentary, Special Interest


Aug 25, 2009


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All Critics (74) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (71) | Rotten (3) | DVD (1)

'God's gonna trouble the water,' goes the chorus from the African-American spiritual that gives Trouble the Water its title, but no deity is to blame for the tide of bureaucratic bungling and inhumanity the movie reveals.

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The person at the centre emerges as a force of nature unto herself. Meet, and prepare to be inspired by, Kimberly Rivers Roberts.

February 12, 2009 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Essential, startling and distressing insight into what it was like to be in the eye of the Katrina storm if you were a poor, black resident of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Monday August 29 2005.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You can't help wanting -- and maybe needing -- to read into her indomitable spiritedness something like a reason for hope. For her, for other Katrina survivors, for all of us.

October 31, 2008 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's not quite a Grapes of Wrath for our times, but Trouble the Water does give a voice to people America didn't see or listen to before Katrina.

October 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

More than most documentaries, this mosaiclike movie is made up of many pieces, and it's considerably more than the sum of those parts.

October 17, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A documentary that changed direction, like a weather front, in the midst of being made.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Timely, relevant, and touching documentary that needs to be seen.

July 27, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The most affecting footage of Hurricane Katrina ever seen comes from an amateur camcorder bought on the street for twenty bucks.

June 12, 2010 Full Review Source: DCist

It's a view of the disaster that no amount of news coverage would ever manage to capture.

September 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

An utterly magnificent film, one that is as hard to forget as it is to ignore. As such, it is destined to live a long life, in peoples' minds and on scholars' shelves.

August 14, 2009 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune

Intensely gripping footage of the calamitous Hurricane Katrina and the compelling story of survivors Kimberly and Scott Roberts make this a must see documetary.

June 27, 2009 Full Review Source:

Trouble the Water is a truly gobsmacking document, but it's Kimberly Roberts who carries the film.

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

Trouble The Water tells a fascinating story with some amazing imagery, shot when the floods were at their height, but somehow loses something in the translation.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

The footage - edited and augmented by Michael Moore's collaborators Tia Lessin and Carl Deal - is unpolished, but the stories and commentary are as inspirational as they are harrowing.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

Tia Lessin and Carl Deal's movie about Hurricane Katrina is, in its way, quite as powerful as Spike Lee's massive documentary on the subject.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian

I could call the film an important document, but it's far more rowdy and vital, and amazingly unpretentious, than that makes it sound.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Trouble the Water employs Kim Roberts' startling camcorder footage to reveal how little New Orleans prepared its citizens for the coming disaster.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

Later, unfortunately, the film's energy drains like the waters, leaving a wrack of tired folk wisdoms and ear-injuring rap songs.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Financial Times | Comments (2)
Financial Times

Riveting, emotionally engaging and frequently astonishing documentary that tells an important story and will make you laugh, cry and seethe with rage.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: ViewLondon | Comments (3)

The film is a lasting document on the subjects of Hurricane Katrina, tragedy and bureaucratic incompetence.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Tulsa World
Tulsa World

a diary of missed opportunities

November 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

For the 3rd anniversary of Katrina comes a gripping point of view about the disaster and its continuing impact on the people of New Orleans that has not been seen before.

November 1, 2008 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for Trouble the Water

Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her family survive Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.
The film takes several pot shots at the Bush Administration and the local governments in their handling of the disaster, and it sets up its primary subject as a hero, a survivor in the face of unimaginable hardship. Politically, I agree with the film's disdain, and although it took me a while to like Roberts, by the end of the film, I admired her even if I don't know how long we could sustain a conversation in real life.
Overall, it's biased, but Trouble the Water is ultimately an important film.
July 11, 2012
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

While this is a bit too (understandably) biased to be labeled a true is still quite a powerful look at one of the most horrific events in recent American history.

What makes this version of a "Katrina Story" so powerful, is that it is a story that is shot from "the inside". And by "the inside" I'm not only refering to the gut wrenching footage that was shot on home video pre, during and post Katrina. I also use that term to describe the view it provides into the heart and soul of the poverty stricken 9th ward, where most of the damage took place.

While this is presented as the story of one woman, I think that the story is (sadly) global. The difference is that most stories involving similar circumstance, don't inspire as much hope.

The heroine of this story is a survivor. Someone who has been dealt one difficult hand after another, but who has been blessed with just enough spiritual fortitude to allow her to persevere.

It's hard to look into her eyes and her heart (not to mention those of her friends, family and neighbors) and not be touched by their spirit. They have (for the most part) all been relegated to this life, mostly due to lack of education and/or opportunity. And then disenfranchised and demoralized by society.

As a (pre Katrina) resident of New Orleans for several years I must point out that much of what is said in this film about the failure of city and national government in regards to American citizens that (for whatever reason) have fallen into poverty, can be applied (to some extent) to every major cities across America. This is not simply a New Orleans story, it just happens to take place there.

Katrina served as a wake up call to America (and the world). Ripping the tattered bandage off of this festering wound (poverty) on the soul of America and exposing the fact that our governments incompetence goes far beyond foriegn affairs.

As difficult as it is to accept, what is important now is that we remember, what was revealed to us when the storm passed. And more importantly, that we make sure that the people who we elect to represent us...also remember.
September 16, 2008
Robert C

Super Reviewer

"Trouble the Water" is a documentary about Kim and Scott Roberts who lacking transportation decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina in their home in New Orleans, stocking up on supplies and filming home movies before, during and after. Luckily, they made it not only out of their home alive after the levees broke, first from their attic, then to a neighbor's home on higher ground and later 220 miles away to Alexandria, La. The movie speaks not only to their harrowing journey of survival but also to the unpreparedness and intransigence of the authorities who were seemingly more interested in protecting property than saving lives. More help came from families and friends but only the government can work on the huge scale required.(There are many invocations of religion which speaks to the general helplessness of the situation.) Such laissez-faire attitudes are also the indirect cause of the oil spill that is currently causing so much damage in the gulf coast. The documentary squanders its excellent point of view by focusing more on the familiar larger story, than the more intimate, smaller story, as it gets off a ridiculously cheap shot towards the finish. Sadly, the movie also eventually runs out of steam, not having a clear idea when to end, as the story is still ongoing.
July 7, 2010
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Unfortunately Deal and Lessin had to deal with Spike Lee's "epic" on the Hurricane and will forever have to be compared with that work. Thankfully, it is good and in most cases this is more poignant than Lee's excessive piece.
December 4, 2012
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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