Ryan Chartrand

During spring break, instead of heading to Mexico to partake in foam parties and other drunken debaucheries, six students from Cal Poly drove to New Orleans and filmed their experiences volunteering in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The documentary they made is technically shaky home video quality, but the relevance of the material and the depth to which it was covered make the film’s blemishes bearable.

The documentary’s strength is not how it’s filmed or edited, but what was filmed. Communications senior Kara Callaway and modern languages and literature senior Lindsay Goldberg not only captured the streets of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but also the streets still lush with the unique culture of the area.

The first half of the film shows a wide scope of New Orleans music: from street bands playing jazz to a blues show, a hip-hop show and random freestyle rap from people the students met on the street. One entertaining scene has the students sitting in their car being serenaded by a man singing and rapping into a bucket while hitting it with his hands to make a beat.

The resilient spirit of New Orleans depicted in the first half of the film by street performances and interviews is followed immediately by a tour of the still-decaying wasteland of houses.

After the tour, the film follows the students as they volunteer with an organization called Relief Spark. They are shown renovating houses, tutoring school children, counseling the elderly, and helping out an animal rescue center – all the while interviewing people in charge of volunteer efforts and people whose lives have been permanently changed by the disaster.

In fact, the survivor interviews are the most gripping part of the documentary. The film does not have a narrator; rather, it relies on the people of New Orleans to narrate the film with their stories, which are both fascinating and saddening.

The film does have some technical shortcomings, which is understandable considering it was not made by film students or put together over the course of a quarter; it was filmed in one week and edited in two.

The most distracting problems with the film are the wind noise picked up by the camera’s microphone, which makes it hard to hear some interviews, and when the person who was filming rotated the camera 90 degrees and the ground is on the right side of the screen and not the bottom.

These shortcomings are easy to overlook, however, because the film accomplished presenting the lively, colorful, enduring spirit of New Orleans juxtaposed with the ruinous hurricane-affected areas; making the point that though it is out of the media spotlight, New Orleans, as well as its citizens, has yet to recover.

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