Trouble the Water

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Trouble the Water
Trouble the water.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTia Lessin
Carl Deal
Produced byTia Lessin
Carl Deal
Music byDavidge
Del Naja
Black Kold Madina
CinematographyPJ Raval and Kimberly Rivers Roberts
Edited byT. Woody Richman
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. Trouble the Water is a redemptive tale of a couple surviving failed levees, bungling bureaucrats, and their own troubled past and a portrait of a community abandoned long before Hurricane Katrina hit, featuring music by Massive Attack, Mary Mary, Citizen Cope, John Lee Hooker, The Roots, Dr. John and Blackkoldmadina. Trouble the Water is distributed by Zeitgeist Films and premiered in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on August 22, 2008, followed by a national release in more than 200 theaters. It had its television premiere on HBO and has been rebroadcast on National Geographic Channel and Turner Classic Movies. Trouble the Water is available on DVD.


Trouble the Water opens the day the filmmakers meet 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 Ninth Ward attic as the storm rages, the levees fail and the flood waters rise.

Weaving 15 minutes of Roberts' ground zero footage shot the day before and the morning of the storm, with archival news segments, other home video, and verité footage they filmed over two years, director/producers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal document the journey of a young couple living on the margins who survive the storm and seize a chance for a new beginning.

Trouble the Water explores issues of race, class, and the relationship of government to its citizens, issues that continue to haunt America, years after the levees failed in New Orleans.

Critical reception[edit]

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


Trouble the Water was presented in France, with French subtitles translated by Celine Prost.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2009 and an Emmy Award for best informational program in 2010. It won the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival[2] as well as the Grand Jury Award, The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights, and the Working Films Award at the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Festival, and the Special Jury Prize at the 2008 AFI/Silverdocs Festival.

The film won the IFC 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.

Named best documentary of 2008 by the African-American Film Critics Association and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and came in 2nd place for the National Film Critics Circle Award.

List of Awards[edit]

  • 2009 Academy Award Nominee, Best Documentary Feature
  • 2009 Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary
  • 2009 NAACP Image Award Nominee, Outstanding Documentary
  • 2009 Producers Guild of America For Feature Documentary (Nominated)
  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize
  • 2008 Full Frame Documentary Festival Grand Jury Prize
  • 2008 AFI/Silverdocs Special Jury Prize
  • 2008 Council On Foundations Henry Hampton Award for Excellence In Film And Digital Media
  • 2008 Working Films Award
  • 2008 Kathleen Bryan Human Rights Award
  • 2010 Harry Chapin Media Award
  • Official Selection, 2008 New Directors/New Films Festival (Museum of Modern Art And Film Society of Lincoln Center)


  1. ^ "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 2, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  2. ^ "2008 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards" (PDF). 2008-01-26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-18.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Manda Bala
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary
Succeeded by
We Live in Public