Trouble the Water revisits the DIY aesthetic recently co-opted in the name of "realism" for big-budget escapism like Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead, with two undeniable advantages. Firstly, it's non-fiction, a view of an impossibly immense disaster from the perspective of those whose lives Hurricane Katrina most radically affected. Secondly (and more importantly?), its main characters are antitheses to the depthless, target market-researched twenty somethings of those supernatural disaster films.
Introduced as the filmmakers meet them while attempting an entirely different Katrina doc, Kim and Scott Roberts command Trouble the Water's narrative long after the waters recede from their Ninth Ward neighborhood–unlike those blockbuster protags, their lives extend beyond their film's first and last disasters. Kim is especially charismatic, musing in an enchanting New Orleans accent, "Maybe I'm gonna sell it to some white people," while knowingly collecting footage of her block before the storm. Trees swaying in the gathering winds haven't spelled doom so plainly since Kurosawa's Throne of Blood.
Beyond the opening scene's shocking storm footage, Trouble the Water keeps its disaster voyeurism minimal (national news footage serves mostly as depressing propagandistic counterpoint to lived reality), focusing instead on its main characters' relentless optimism. Kim, Scott and another Katrina refugee, Brian, pack enough charm and personal redemption to make the shift entirely successful. Kim's discovery of her old rap EP and impromptu performance is a particularly eloquent scene, proving the survival of New Orleans' rich vernacular culture despite the indifferent city government's blind promotion of postcard-ready tourism as a means to top-down reconstruction. It's not the cathartic finale of your average monster movie, but it's about the happiest conclusion to be extracted from this never-ending disaster scenario.