Are its origins in the Dirty South?
So! Film Festival highlights! For you non-Madisonians, this weekend saw four days of films all over downtown, and it was glorious. rakelspektakel and I volunteered a few shifts, taking tickets and the like, and saw some excellent films. First was "Chalk", a hi-bloody-larious comedy about high school teachers and the source of this post's title. I'm holding out for the DVD. On Sunday we saw a series of six short films, the best one from Madison, a silent film (with all the histrionics and the piano accompaniment) called "The Captain & Me" about an honorable pirate and his friends carousing on State Street. Later we caught a Lars von Trier comedy (say again?) called "The Boss of it All." More fun than a barrel of buttered monkeys.
I also managed to see two Katrina-related documentaries, the second by accident, as I got to sit in while volunteering at that show. On Friday night we saw "Tim's Island," which was made during Katrina by a group of survivors stranded together under circumstances which were probably (for Katrina) not bad in comparison to the SuperDome and the Convention Center, but were still pretty frightening.
I was a little bit nervous about seeing this film. In some ways, Katrina's been something I've been able to keep a little bit at a distance. It's a strange thing. I moved to Madison just two days before the storm and have spent probably a total of three or four weeks on the coast since then, of course mostly in Mobile where the damage was nothing like MS and NOLA. My first week in Madison was taken up with worry, excitement, probably no little bit of nausea, and definitely a sense that none of it--not Katrina, not Wisconsin, probably not anything in between--was real.
So imagine my surprise when Wednesday night, I dream I'm in a hurricane, in a house that's not quite finished, wind tearing doors off and pelting me with a freezing rain, and trying to figure out where in my house might possibly be safe for my family and my cats as the water flows into the basement.
I'll backtrack a bit. One of the last times I spent any considerable amount of time in New Orleans was Mardi Gras 2005. joyfulheart4 had a friend working for Habitat for Humanity there and several USM-ers and I (sleepysprite, jensmith1981, and Brits) joined her at his house for a pre-Endymion party. I think it was on D'Hemecourt St. We parked in front of a big warehouse-type building, and had a few beers in the front yard, marveling at a house a few doors down with a truly stunning sense of style--painted in glowing yellow and green with vibrant orange stone dogs gracing each side of the steps. We walked the few blocks to Canal for the parade and danced for hours. Later that night, we got back to the car (happily un-ticketed), said goodbye to the orange dogs, and headed back to Hattiesburg.
Tim's Island was about 16 people, 8 dogs, and 7 cats living out the storm and the week after in a warehouse surrounded by floodwaters. Two of the people brought cameras on a whim, and filmed everything. They managed to keep a gas generator going the whole time, so they knew when the levee broke, they knew what was going on in other parts of the city, and they knew help wasn't coming. They got shots of the area from the boats they took out to get supplies, and from the roof of the building they were in, which gave them a good vantage point over the neighborhood, where their neighbors sat on porches waiting for the water to go down. One of those porches, filled with a large family, was green and yellow with orange dogs on the steps.
Maybe it's self-centered of me to need to find this kind of connection to the storm, to be able to see something truly familiar in all of the terrible footage that came out of New Orleans and Mississippi. But in some ways Katrina has been both the destruction of a place I call home and as far away from me as the tsunami that same year. New Orleans is a city I love but don't know well enough; I had certainly never spent much time in parts of the city that weren't the French Quarter. So it was eerie to realize, very early in the film, that yes, these were streets I had walked before.
Between this film and the documentary I sat in on Sunday ("Made With Love: A Story of Emergency Communities,"), I learned more about Katrina then I really had been able to before. The second film was about recovery immediately after the storm, not rebuilding, or relocating, just about the simple necessity of feeding and caring for people who have nothing left. Take a look at www.emergencycommunities.org if you're interested in the group featured in the documentary.
And that's enough long-windedness for one day.