“Katrina Babies” review: A story of shared experience

Courtesy+of+HBO+Max

Courtesy of HBO Max

Brooklyn Joyner , Staff Writer

Imagine being trapped on the roof of your home in the blaring sun for days and beneath you is an ocean of brown mystery water. The only way you can escape is by being lifted by a metal basket suspended from a helicopter thousands of miles above you. As you’re being lifted in the air, below you see the remains of your hometown. It’s eerily silent with not even a chirp from a bird. All you can hear is the blade of the helicopter. 

This was the first 10 minutes of HBO’s documentary Katrina Babies. There seemed to be children as young as a year old being lifted in cages over pools of filthy water. It was jarring to look at and a perspective I unfortunately never seemed to dwell on. 

This documentary centers itself around the point of view of children who went through Hurricane Katrina and drifts into how this affects the present condition of New Orleans. The creator of the film, Edward Buckles Jr. was 13 during the time of the disaster and tells his personal story of how it affected his life. Buckles starts off his journey with the night his family evacuated from the hurricane to his early stage of adulthood as a filmmaker and educator.

This film took Buckles seven years to create taking into account the stories of his family and other children who experienced Hurricane Katrina. He asked people who were aged 4 to 19 years old during the time of tragedy. He interviewed people who were stuck in the Convention Center for days or trapped in their roof to people who had time to safely evacuate. This film was raw, extremely emotional, and you can tell Buckles had a real connection to it. 

It does an excellent job showing how no one supported Black youth who experienced something so traumatic. It asked them the simple question of “How did this experience affect you?” and it was made clear that no one had ever asked them that before. It was shown through their tears, and it seemed like they had been holding them in for years. 

As a New Orleans native and someone who would be classified as a “Katrina baby,” this film made me see Hurricane Katrina in a totally different light. Hurricane Katrina was not just a natural disaster. It was also racial neglect.  Everyone loves to call New Orleans “resilient” for building itself back up after facing such a catastrophe, but this film made me realize that the city will never be what it once was.

Buckles pointed out how the storm displaced Black people at a quicker rate then gentrification ever could. This displacement also relates to the hefty crime rate New Orleans has been experiencing in the present. We’re shown how the city is being taken over by White people while also pushing out the people who have created and preserved the beloved culture of New Orleans. This was scary to see because it made me question what the city will look like in the next 10 years. 

Not only did Katrina Babies tell a story, but it did so in a creative way. The magazine cut out animations of Buckle’s flashbacks, adding such a nice touch. I also enjoyed how authentic the film was to New Orleans. The subjects of the interviews felt so comfortable. They didn’t code switch or stop cursing and you could hear every bit of their accent. This film showed old home videos of pre-Katrina New Orleans, playing the music my New Orleans-raised mom used to listen to in the early 1990s. The crowds of people gather together listening to bounce music and doing the dance, the “beanie weenie.” 

It also shows the present, where people are second lining in the streets with a brass band leading the way. This film paints Black people as beautiful, and our culture as rich and vulnerable.

With this film, it felt as though Edward Buckles, Jr. wanted to encourage more vulnerability from the Black community by acknowledging mental health and admitting that we are not ok. 

This film was heavy, but it was a breath of fresh air for the Black youth like me that went through the tragedy.

“Katrina Babies” is now available on HBO Max.         

 

 

Illustration by Ariel Landry