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April 11, 2006

Katrina and Popular Film: New Ways to Read Into the Horrific Aftermath

The independent film about Hurricane Katrina, by filmmaker Creighton Hobbs, got such an overwhelming amout of remarks (read them at THIS ENTRY) I came to the conclusion that some of the more lengthy (and thought out) ones deserved a blog entry of their own. What makes this approach different is how some of my students compared not only the film but the event itself to ideas expressed in the film Crash, Process B-7185, and others. . .

Rather than summarize their positions, I'll let you read them below in the comment section. Please feel free to leave your own remarks too.

NOTE: For a more detailed discussion of the other works discussed by the compatriots of these students, please go HERE for Process-B715, HERE for Crash, and HERE for the Katrina Documentary.

Thanks!

Lee

*Read more English-Blog Film Reviews HERE!

Posted by lhobbs at April 11, 2006 10:05 AM

Readers' Comments:

Comparison of Disasters

When thinking of racism and hurricanes, it may be hard to think of many similarities that they may have, but if the time is taken to watch the film Crash, which is about racism and intolerance, and any documentary of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States, it becomes much more evident why the two items are more similar than it seems at first glance. Hurricane Katrina and the racism displayed in the film Crash do have their differences; one of them is a natural disaster, the other a social disaster. A hurricane is not something that is a problem that occurs on an everyday basis, while racism is, and one is an age-old problem while the other is relatively new. However, the devastation caused by both is nearly equal, both need a solution and need the help of thousands of people to fix them, and both racism and Hurricane Katrina have physically, mentally, and emotionally scarred people. When looking more in depth, it becomes easier to see various points of view on how Hurricane Katrina and Crash are similar and also how they are different.

Hurricane Katrina devastated many states of the southern U.S. in the late summer of 2005. Ever since, there have been efforts from all over the United States to help make things at least slightly better for those severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. Some people sent things, such as food, toiletries, bedding, clothing, money, and other helpful items. Other people actually took survivors into their homes while they were arranging for somewhere else to live. Some people went to the devastated areas and helped sort out and rebuild things out as much as possible. The efforts to clean up and rebuild are still going on today, several months later. Hurricane Katrina may have been a terrible natural disaster, however, there are equally destructive social disasters that occur on a nearly daily basis in the United States.

One example of this is racism and intolerance. Some people believe that this is a thing of the past, because the United States is supposed to be a “melting pot” where all races can live in a state of tolerance, other people simply choose to ignore racism. Certain people are knowingly racist and intolerant and are proud of it.

Those who are ignorant are nearly as bad for the country as those who are actively being intolerant because neither of them sees a need for a change. Those who help are the tolerant people who realize that not everyone in the country is like them, and that some people need more help than others realizing and correcting their wrongs. Those who try to show racist people their wrongs and stand up for those people who are being discriminated against are the ones who help the cause the most. The actions taken to fix a social disaster versus a natural one are very different.

Both disasters currently devastate the U.S., but, luckily, a hurricane does not hit the coast every day, while racism does affect society every day. It is hard to determine which is a bigger disaster because one occurs in small amounts on a daily basis, while the other hit with all of its force at once. They are both large problems that need to be corrected as soon as possible, but the effort to fix racism has been going on for many, many years, as opposed to the months people have been working to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. The reason that the fight against racism has been going on longer than the fight to clean up from the hurricane is the fact that racism has been going on for much longer, while Hurricane Katrina is a relatively new problem. While there are differences in these two things, there are also some ways that they are alike.

One of the similarities of the events of Crash and Hurricane Katrina is the near equality of the damage. Racism and intolerance injures people all the time, and many of the residents of the southern states affected by the hurricane were injured badly. But not only those who lived where the devastation occurred felt Katrina’s affects, the whole country was affected by the aftermath. Both of these problems were able to affect an entire nation of people.

Another common thread that racism and Hurricane Katrina share is the necessity for thousands of people in order to make a change. If no one sent money, supplies, helped clean up and rebuild, or housed the victims of Hurricane Katrina, there would still be massive amounts of wreckage. Similarly, if no one ever stood up for someone who was being made a victim of a hate crime, and if no one ever realized what a problem slavery, or any other form of racism, was then we would still be set back hundreds of years in the tolerance department. All it takes is one person to start the change to fix a problem, but it takes a whole nation of people, like the United States, to make a noticeable change.

Both Hurricane Katrina and the kind of racism that was seen in the film Crash are things that emotionally, mentally, and physically harm people. As Crash shows, people can be killed because of racism, as some were in the film. This is also true of a natural disaster; Hurricane Katrina took more than one person’s life. Any disaster, natural, social, or any other form, is likely to cause injury mentally and emotionally. When something bad happens to people, they are going to be affected by it, and most likely have negative feelings and thoughts about it. Both Katrina and intolerance are negative things, and therefore, have negative consequences on the mental and emotional portion of a person’s life. Katrina and racism affect their victims lives in ways much more similar than would originally be thought.

Although Hurricane Katrina and the events that take place in the film Crash seem unrelated, and in some aspects are, they are also both related to each other in more than one way. Disasters are much more alike than they may seem on the surface, and these two things are obviously disastrous. Sometimes all it takes is a deeper look into things to see the ways that they are alike and different more clearly.

~Kelsey L.

Posted by: Kelsey L. at April 19, 2006 10:28 AM

Destruction

Looking outside it's a beautiful sunny day. The birds are singing the sun is shining. Nothing can disturb this beautiful place, or so each of us think. Things begin to change in a blink of an eye. Destruction occurs, destruction of human lives and destruction of buildings. This is what happens when a holocaust and or a hurricane sweeps through an area. There are so many things that are similar and different between these two events. Sit back and really think about it, what does a hurricane do and what did the holocaust really accomplish? There are two videos that ended up proving to us how similarities and totally different these two devastating event.

Keep in mind one happened recently which the movie was entitled Hurricane Katrina and the other one happened sixty one years ago, but the movie is entitled Process B-7815, which was told by a survivor named Bernard.

Has anyone every woken up one morning and just felt so happy to be alive? This is what the survivors of both the Holocaust and Hurricane Katrina felt when the devastating and horrific event came to an end. The Holocaust started sixty one years prior to Hurricane Katrina. One morning the Jewish in Poland woke up and went on with their daily lives, not knowing what was around the corner and had no time to prepare.

This is the same thing that happened with Hurricane Katrina, individuals woke up one morning and the sun was shining and they went along with there daily routines. The next morning Nazi's that were ruling Poland started to take over the streets of Poland with tanks and trucks and started picking up every Jewish individual in eye site. They would take them at gun point by the hundreds. The Jews had no idea were they were heading. The same thing happened in the states that were hit by Hurricane Katrina. Cops took the streets, in tanks and trucks with loud speaker telling every individual in site to leave. Yes, I know it's not exactly the same but they are similar. They both took the streets and demanded individuals to leave without any idea where they were heading or much time to think. They had this all thrown at them all at once. Another similarity between the two is that that both events killed innocent individuals. These individuals had no right to die the way they did, but, they had little warning and had no way to escape. Process B-7815 took innocent individuals against there will and put them in small cramped areas with little to eat and little to drink. That's what happened with Hurricane Katrina innocent individuals were put in small areas. With little to drink and little to eat, the conditions for both places were not very clean or well kept because of the amount of individuals in them. In both of these movies, homes were destroyed; people were killed or died from diseases or malnutrition.

There are many differences between the two. Process B-7815 lasted twenty-four long devastating years, where individuals because of there religion and the way they looked were captured put into work camps and killed just because Hitler didn't like them. Hurricane Katrina lasted only a few hours and it killed millions of individuals in four states. These individuals died from the weather not by a ruler at the time not liking a group of individuals. The holocaust is known and studied all over the world for over sixty years because of how well known this disaster was. Hurricane Katrina was published all over the world but is not as big of a deal to individuals in other countries as it was for individuals who were taken or killed in the holocaust. The holocaust sits on your hearts a lot more then Hurricane Katrina. Don't take it the wrong way yes the hurricane was devastating and those individuals did not deserve to die. But, the holocaust killed millions more and could have been stopped if Hitler never got power of Poland. Hurricane Katrina couldn't be stop you can't control what nature brings. Another differences between, the two Hurricane Katrina ended up demolishing four states in only hours it took many years for Hitler to fully lose his power. Both of those events had a mighty force but there forces were given out in different ways. Process B-7815 force was from Hitler. He was controlling the Nazi troops giving them commands that they have to follow fully. The Nazi's didn't care that they were human's that they were killing they only cared about Hitler and his control.

Hurricane Katrina was under the control of nature. These elements that were around were caused by strength and the path that the storm took. The source of nature ended up causing the destruction, and the numbers of individuals who were killed.

These are a few of many things that took place in these two videos that are similar and different from each other. As each of us go along in life try not to forget theses devastating days. Try not to bring racism into life, this is because it ends up not just hurting one person it ends up hurting the whole group. If one person has something wrong with one group another will have something wrong with another group and it will end up becoming another disaster like Process B-7815. No individual wants anything to happen like this again nothing in the mass killing of millions of innocent human's like there was in the holocaust and thousands of individuals killed in Hurricane Katrina

~Jennifer G.

Posted by: Jennifer G. at April 19, 2006 10:32 AM

Think Time: Pulling Emotion into a Film

One of the hardest things to do in the movie industry is make everyone in the audience cry at the climax of a film. Although crying may be one of the most visible emotions a person can express when watching a film there are many other emotions a movie maker tries to pull out than just that. Two of the films shown in a college writing class were an independent film about the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005 and a major Hollywood motion picture Crash. Both of these films expect an emotional reaction from the audience. One at it's most basic and the other at the industry's most complex.

Everything a viewer watches is meant to generate emotion from him or her. Perhaps it is basic like laughter or the viewer saying, "Wow that person is stupid." These are both emotions. Sometimes the producer is so good that the viewer dose not even realize they have the very emotion the filmmaker wants. For instance, when a girl watches a show like "Laguna Beach" and she sees an actress cheat on her boyfriend, the viewer says to her friends the next day, "what a whore." This is the emotion that the producers want. It is the only thing that keeps the viewers coming back week after week. For an independent film like the ones about Hurricane Katrina there is a different kind of emotion that is expected.

The kind of emotion that is conjured up here is thought and reflection. This is a hard emotion to extract from an audience. It's even harder on a television where thought is quickly interrupted when commercials start. So what are the techniques for producing thought from a film? One of the most important ideas is to not have the film interrupted by commercials or bias to opinions. This means the viewer is forced to formulate their own opinion until the end of the film when they can discuss it with other viewers. Another technique is what I like to call "Think Time." "Think Time" is when the filmmaker gives you time to reflect on what's happening in the film. This is usually done with slow moving fades and music, but no talking. For example, when Bruce Willis finally discovers that he is a ghost in The Sixth Sense the director, M. Night Shyamalan, does not just end the movie there. Rather, he gives the audience "think time." He cues the slow moving fades and flashbacks so the viewer realizes the intended twist. Where as The Sixth Sense only focuses on one fictional issue, "think time" can focus on complex issues as well like the ones presented in the Katrina videos. The audience is experiencing "think time", but in a totally different way.

The independent films about Hurricane Katrina are basically all "Think Time." The whole film is slow moving pictures; without words; and an emotional piece of music. The producer of these films wants a response from the audience. He wants to convey the emotion he feels and he only has eight minutes to do it. He starts out with something simple like cars evacuating a city. The viewer thinks, "Ok I'm familiar with this, that's rough." Next he brings in a few more pictures of floodwaters submerging a house. Now the viewer is taken aback by this turn of events, this is something they may have never seen before. Maybe it was on the news, but not with this atmosphere and music. The film erases all predisposed information from news coverage and it's up to the viewer to take a position on what had happened. This is "think time" at it's finest. The viewer is visually seeing and feeling what the producer feels when he sees his hometown in rubble. Though the viewer may never know what it is like to go through that they can now have a greater understanding and a greater respect for the people who have. This is the message the producer of the film was trying to get across and if it didn't hit home after the picture of the submerged houses he has a whole arsenal of pictures to whip at the viewer until he or she is moved. Some of these included crying people, piles of possessions going out to the trash, and rebuilding. The one thing a producer does not want to do is loose an audience in "think time." A person can only think about an issue for so long. Before they are worn out and begin to think critically about the film. For instance the viewer could think, "Whoever put this together is not that good at making videos, look at all the bad camera work." Right at this second the viewer is officially lost. They are no longer buying in to the emotion the film is trying to extract. This same basic technique of "think time" can be used in large Hollywood films like Crash.

Crash deals with a larger variety of emotions. Some things in the film invoke sadness and laughter, but overall it's a piece that promotes thought. This is apparent with all the "think time" that is in the film. After many of the major events there is a scene with no talking and soothing music. The major difference between Crash and the Katrina videos is that Crash shapes the viewer's thoughts with words where in the Katrina videos the viewer must formulate his own meaning. They are both clouded in mystery when the viewer wants to get the exact point, but both expand the viewers mind with things they wouldn't think about every day. In Crash "think time" can also be used as a tool to pull the viewers attention different ways. For instance, when the white woman was complaining about the locksmith being a minority and untrustworthy there was a pause after that scene that might have lead the audience to believe he truly was untrustworthy. This is a type of "think time" used to trick the viewer so their attention is taken away from the truth. Something like this would be impossible in a video like the ones about Hurricane Katrina because it only deals with one subject and there is no plot.

Emotion is a way to express a message in a film. Some are clearer while others make the viewer think. This task can be accomplished through a basic slideshow or a million dollar Hollywood film. "Think Time" is a good way to spark the mind and give the viewer an opportunity to see the world in a way they may have never thought existed. Crash and the Katrina films challenge the viewers day to day living, make them stop for a second as ask some tough questions, and perhaps change their way of life.

~Sam H.

Posted by: Sam H. at April 19, 2006 10:44 AM

Hi Everyone,

I would like to thank everyone who has talked about my film I have made on Hurricane Katrina. Not only do I appreciate all the efforts of ya'll [NOTE: That's Gulf Coast Dialect!] helping, but so does the whole Gulf Coast. There were some comments you made on my filmmaking, and it is pretty bad! But, you have to remember this: When you show up to a disaster area like this is, you'd probably have to film the same way under those conditions. There were literally about 300 people I had talked to that showed me photographs of their family that could not be found.

The only way to truly try to describe it is this: "Apocalypse". I was not only trying to film this video, but also help the people involved . I actually had to handle a deceased person that was floating in the water on Market Street in Pascagoula, MS. I still have nightmares from that, and I was trying to film this tragedy. So, I could show the world just a little bit more than what the major news coverage wasn't showing to the world.

But, I am going to talk to my older brother and his better half ;) and maybe I can schedule a date to come up the school, to speak to y'all. Then I can answer any questions that anyone still has on their minds because, believe me, it will take years to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Everyone here is so grateful for all the help that ya'll have shown to us.

Thank you all and God bless you.

Creighton Hobbs

Posted by: Creighton Hobbs at April 25, 2006 02:12 PM

Dear Professor Hobbs,

I missed the class when we watched the Hurricane Katrina video, but I do have some comments about the disaster.

Hurricane Katrina was a horrible disaster that the United States was not ready for. It was handled poorly and many lives and properties were lost.

The hardest thing to watch were the interviews with the victims. The shots of the devistation and the stories of survivors were touching. I was also disturbed by the mayhem. Images of people shooting at helicopters and raiding stores made my jaw drop.

The country came together and collected funds to help this destroyed city. Funds are still being collected and people are giving their time up to be a part of the relief effort. The country and the government learned a lesson about this disaster and hopefully will not have to experience something like this for a long long time.

Brendan

Posted by: Brendan at April 27, 2006 03:37 PM

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