Trouble the Water

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Trouble the Water
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTia Lessin
Carl Deal
Produced byTia Lessin
Carl Deal
CinematographyPJ Raval and Kimberly Rivers Roberts
Edited byT. Woody Richman
Music byDavidge
Del Naja
Black Kold Madina
Distributed byZeitgeist Films
Release date
  • August 22, 2008 (2008-08-22)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States

Trouble the Water is a 2008 documentary film produced and directed by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. The film centers a young couple surviving Hurricane Katrina, and facing their own troubled past during the storm's aftermath. It features music by Massive Attack, Mary Mary, Citizen Cope, John Lee Hooker, The Roots, Dr. John and Blackkoldmadina. Trouble the Water was distributed by Zeitgeist Films and premiered in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on August 22, 2008, followed by a national release.


Trouble the Water opens with the filmmakers meeting 24-year-old aspiring rap artist Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott at a Red Cross shelter in Central Louisiana, then flashes back two weeks, with Kimberly turning her new video camera on herself and her neighbors trapped in their 9th Ward attic as the storm rages.

The film combines Roberts' footage of the day before and the morning of the storm with archival news segments, other home videos, and verité footage filmed over two years. Trouble the Water explores issues of race, class, and the relationship of the government to its citizens.

Critical reception[edit]

The film appeared on two critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.[1]

International distribution[edit]

Trouble the Water was distributed in France, with Celine Prost translating the French subtitles.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2008 and an Emmy Award for best informational program in 2010. It won the Grand Jury Prize Documentar at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival;[2] the Grand Jury Award, the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights, and the Working Films Award at the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; and the Special Jury Prize at the 2008 AFI Docs festival.

The film won the Gotham Award for best documentary and the Council on Foundation's Henry Hampton Award. It has also been nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary and a Producers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Motion Picture.

The African-American Film Critics Association and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists named the film the best documentary of 2008, and it finished second for the National Film Critics Circle Award. It also won the 2008 Working Films Award, the 2010 Harry Chapin Media Award, and was the official selection for the 2008 New Directors/New Films Festival.


  1. ^ "Film Critic Top Ten Lists: 2008 Critics' Picks". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 2, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  2. ^ "2008 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. January 26, 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 18, 2008.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary
Succeeded by