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WGUC Reviews

The Big Uneasy

The Big Uneasy
Now Showing at:
Review by: Larry Thomas

You may be familiar with Harry Shearer for a variety of appearances in his busy career: the movie This is Spinal Tap, on Saturday Night Live, doing voices on The Simpsons, or as an NPR contributor and essayist. No matter your favorite incarnation of Harry Shearer, he’s one talented guy.

Now it’s time for you to meet Harry Shearer, the documentary filmmaker. He is the writer and director of The Big Uneasy, an exploration of post-Katrina New Orleans. Shearer digs deep into why the systems failed, and who is to blame. He doesn’t go only for the high-profile targets, but instead comes up with a whole new cast of culpable miscreants.

Shearer also introduces us to three brave individuals, two scientists and a civil servant, who put everything on the line in order to reveal the truth behind the most devastating natural disaster in American history, which for the most part, was actually a man-made disaster waiting to happen. You’ll likely cringe at how these three people were treated for their efforts, since, as we all know, the bad guys don’t like truth-tellers.

Unlike some of the more sensationalistic film documentaries of recent years (the films of Michael Moore come to mind), The Big Uneasy presents the facts first, and then offers an opinion. Shearer’s narration does have moments of his dry wit and sly charm, but his on-screen appearances are at a minimum, in order to downplay the “star factor.” There’s also an assist in some transitional scenes from actor John Goodman, who has lived in New Orleans for many years. The film, though, is serious business that tackles a serious subject. Those responsible for malfeasance are exposed, the reasons why everything failed are rationally explained, and we come away from this film feeling like the story of what happened in New Orleans is finally being explained in understandable terms, not just ten-second sound bites on the evening news.

This film was a labor of love for Shearer, who financed it with his own money. The affinity of those who live there, both famous, and ordinary citizens, is very obvious. But the truly shameful part of the whole debacle is those who were affected the most are the ones who could afford it the least. And isn’t that always the way of the world.

The unrated The Big Uneasy is now showing at the Kenwood Theatre. Writer-director Harry Shearer will introduce the 7:30 showing this evening, then stick around for a Q&A session following the film.


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