Maiden Alley Cinema brings in film on Katrina aftermath
Six years ago, a hurricane destroyed a great deal of one of the country’s biggest, most charismatic cities. Simply known now as “Katrina,” the storm ripped through New Orleans, killing more than 1,800 people and causing $81 billion in damage. It was billed as a “natural disaster,” a terrible tragedy that could not have been prevented.
Now, a documentary from actor Harry Shearer says that’s not the case.
Shearer’s film, “The Big Uneasy,” investigates the causes behind the widespread flooding that tore apart the Gulfcoast Region in Louisiana and Mississippi. Through expert testimonies, interviews with residents, and cold hard facts, Shearer set out to prove that bad engineering caused the flooding in New Orleans. And it’s something that can happen again.
“Sacramento (Calif.) has the same issues with their levees,” Shearer explained. “The city of Dallas just came out with a report that its levees were built on sand. This isn’t just a New Orleans thing. 2005 should have been a wake-up call, but so far it hasn’t been.”
The information Shearer presents isn’t new — it is widely accepted that design flaws in the levees caused the malfunctions — but it is presented in a different way. Although the ideas in the film have made the rounds of the major media outlets, the government and the media’s stance seems to push them under the carpet. Shearer realized that when he heard President Barack Obama made his first visit to New Orleans and called the flooding a natural disaster.
“Here is the guy who one has to acknowledge is intelligent and well informed, and everyone knows what he said isn’t true,” Shearer said. “My first realization was that radio and blogging weren’t enough. So I had to take the next step. I had to get the awareness out there.”
“The Big Uneasy” originally came out on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In most venues, the film was shown for one day. In New Orleans, however, the demand to see it was so large that it stayed in theaters for three weeks. It was then that Shearer made the decision to revamp the film for a full-scale national release.
“I made the movie, showed it, then asked myself, ‘Do you want to quit there or do you want to reach people with this?’” he said. “I adopted that second challenge. If I go through the trouble of making the movie, I should go through the trouble of making sure people are going to see it.”
The last touch Shearer put on the second version was adding himself to the movie. In the original version, he was mainly behind the camera, worrying that his well-known portrayal of characters in “The Simpsons,” or his cult following from his role in “Spinal Tap,” would make the film less credible. But after original screenings and audience feedback, as well as the urging from his colleagues, Shearer was added to the movie, functioning as the audience’s guide through the maze of information.
“The documentary is nothing about what I think,” Shearer said. “It’s about putting the people who really know what they are talking about on a national stage. I am not asking you to take it from me. These people are eminently credentialed and authoritative, and I put them and their information out there. I leave it to you to figure out how you feel about it.”
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652.
Want to go:
What: “The Big Uneasy”
Where: Maiden Alley Cinema, 112 Maiden Alley, Paducah
When: Friday, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday, at 7 p.m.
Run Time: 98 minutes
Tickets: $4.75 for children and students, $5.75 for seniors and shows before 5 p.m., $7.25 for adults.
For more information, visit thebiguneasy.com or maidenalleycinema.com