Harry Shearer is known for being a lot of things.
In no particular order, he is famous for being one-third of Spinal Tap, one-half (it seems) of The Simpsons and just about all of the syndicated radio program Le Show. He's added a new title: Documentarian.
A while back Shearer adopted New Orleans as his home, and he become wrapped up in the city's recovery from Katrina, and the events that led to its devastation.
Angered that officials -- including President Obama -- kept referring to the event as "a natural disaster," Shearer put together a documentary showing how piss-poor the Army Corps of Engineer's levee system was and why it was doomed to fail.
He's been taking the movie around the country (and winning awards) for a while now, and Houston -- new home to many Katrina evacuees -- is finally getting its stop.
The Big Uneasy will play at the Alamo Drafthouse at West Oaks April 29, and Shearer will attend a conduct a Q&A session afterwards.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Shearer describes on the film's website how he put the film together quickly (but carefully) in order to capitalize on media attention for Katrina's fifth anniversary.
He decided not to distract matters by being in the film much himself, and made other choices:
Given the mass media's sentimentalism about the subject matter (one network anchor told me, when I asked why viewers of the broadcast didn't yet know why the city had flooded, "We just think the emotional stories are more compelling for our audience"), I determined to make a film filled with the facts of the story.
That meant a relatively information-dense movie, which led me to make two other choices: really good-looking cinematography and vivid animation of the concepts being discussed. I never wanted a moment when people would think they were watching an educational film.
The film has gotten awards and favorable reviews (It's "a cogent 98-minute investigative chronicle that, along with Spike Lee's pair of HBO films, is an indispensable part of any history of New Orleans before, during and after Katrina," The New York Times said), and now, finally it's in Houston.