New Orleans keeps tugging at David Redmond’s conscience. The director’s 2005 cine-essay Mardi Gras: Made in China exposed the indignities behind the importation of party beads to New Orleans from a sweatshop in China. Flash forward a year: Hurricane Katrina leaves the city in shambles and hangs over the next year’s Mardi Gras festivities, and Redmond, with the help of Ashley Sabin, sweeps into town to document a couple’s attempts to care for troubled survivors in a tent village erected in their backyard. Ms. Pearl and her husband David’s compassion would blow Dubya’s mind (assuming he had one), and the small community of underprivileged men and women they employ in their construction business could probably spruce up all of New Orleans if they had even a fraction of FEMA’s budget. Though the film isn’t exactly an exploration of the failure of post-Katrina disaster relief (at least not on a federal level), the subject is still recovery. The filmmakers dwell on the distinctly New Orleasian eccentricity of Ms. Pearl and David’s tenants, whose hard-knock experiences with drug and booze predate Katrina, without every condescending to them, marveling at their unfortunate weaknesses and fierce survival instincts. The camera, which does not discriminate between the rubble left behind by the hurricane (one striking shot has a man kicking a refrigerator that contained a child’s corpse) and the mess that was there before, spots a cardinal hanging out on a lonely branch and lingers often on a statue of the Maid of New Orleans, Joan of Arc—visions of hope and possibility. The film is ungainly and lacks for focus, not unlike its subjects, but it has a heart as big as the Mississippi and believes in the future of New Orleans and its people.
- Carnivalesque Films
- 74 min
- Ashley Sabin, David Redmon
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