The thing that separates the Oscar-nominated Trouble the Water from the other documentary films to come out of Hurricane Katrina are its "stars."
Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin stumbled into a gold mine when they found Ninth Ward residents Kimberly Roberts and her husband, Scott. It is their camcorder that captured the unfolding disaster there, as it happened.
Kim is a poor woman with a camcorder, one she takes around her neighborhood, chatting up the locals who are staying to ride out the storm because they have no means of evacuating.
Kim is an authentic voice, funny, profane, with a thick accent and an instinctual grasp that something bad is going to happen and that it ought to be documented.
Lessin and Deal assembled the Robertses' tapes and TV news footage into a movie. The filmmakers wisely let Kim, Scott and the people they meet tell the story. The camera work is amateurish but effective.
Others have played the 911 recordings of helpless people calling for rescue with no rescue coming. But no other film has scenes of people crowded into their attics as the waters rise.
If there's a serious shortcoming to the film, it is that it's unemotional. You'd think a documentary about a tragedy, one experienced so personally by the folks on screen, would have more grief. But Kim and Scott roll with whatever is thrown at them.
Trouble the Water gives a voice to people America didn't listen to before Katrina.