If for no other reason, Harry Shearer will be
immortalized for "This is Spinal Tap!," which he made with Christopher Guest,
Michael McKean, and Rob Reiner and in
which he stars as band member Derek Smalls. But he can boast of many more
achievements besides, including a documentary about the untold story of
Hurricane Katrina -- "The Big Uneasy." It shows tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7:30 pm at the Brattle Theatre. Shearer himself will be
on hand for a Q & A after the screening.
Himself a resident of New Orleans, Shearer was devastated like so
many others by this "natural disaster." Or was it entirely a natural disaster?
That's the first question he asks in his exhaustive and revelatory film. We all
know about the inadequacies of FEMA in handling the aftermath of the storm. But
largely ignored has been the cause: the culpability of the Army Corps of
Engineers in their inadequate system of levees and pumps. The Corps was much more successful at covering
up their guilt than doing their job, as Shearer exposes with damning detail. He
also examines another overlooked factor in the flooding -- the erosion of the
wetlands that historically have buffered the city from storm damage, a
phenomenon ironically caused in part very same levees that were constructed to protect the city.
Sadly, this is no mockumentary. Though
at times lighthearted (with cameo appearances by John Goodman), there's not much to laugh about, and the haplessness exposed is
not the comic farce of a befuddled heavy metal band but the injustice and
tragedy of institutions that betrayed the people whose lives depended on them.
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