Her name is Kimberly Rivers Roberts. Your never heard of her. Not yet. That’s what Sundance is all about — finding new talent, such as Lance Hammer, the writer and director of Ballast. Roberts didn’t write or direct Trouble the Water, the behind-the-camera artistry is handled by the extraordinry team of Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Trouble the Water is a documentary that will pin you to your seat. It’s an account of Hurricane Katrina from the inside. Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott Roberts were stuck in New Orleans, without the money to get out. So they stayed and helped their neighbors and shot footage of Katrina as she attacked, footage like you’ve never seen, jaw-dropping scenes of the city before, during and after Katrina struck.
The heroism on view here is indisputable. You never see fear as Kimberly, 26, rushed to help her friends and family. She lived hard, buffeted by poverty and racism, sometimes dealing drugs to get by, but when catastrophe forced her to step up, boy did she ever.
Kimberly’s star power comes from the music she writes and sings, music that was almost lost in the storm. The moment in the aftermath when she finds it and raps about her feelings will knock you off your feet. Here at Sundance, that moment gets audiences standing and cheering. Never mind Katrina, Kimberly Roberts is the real force of nature. Want more proof? Last night, I visited Kimberly and Scott at the condo where they’re staying for the festival’s duration. Kimberly was enjoying everything about the experience. What’s remarkable is that after Trouble he Water premiered to ovations on Sunday night, the pregnant Kimberly’s water broke. Rushed at midnight in a snowstorm to a Utah hospital in nearby Salt Lake City, she gave birth to daughter Skyy (that’s right, two ks) on Martin Luther King day. “I guess drama just follows us around,” she said with a laugh. And here she is three days after giving birth doing an interview with me, showing off the baby and eager to bring Skyy to New Orleans. Kimberly and Scott didn’t want to have a child until they were in a good place. Despite the political incompetence that continues to devastate New Orleans, the couple is going home with only positive vibes. The repair needed in their city has gotten Scott a job in construction. And Kimberly’s music has attracted producers. No wonder, a glory abides in this woman’s voice. With apologies to Robert Redford, Skyy is truly the Sundance Kid. “Inspiring” is an overused word in the movie business. But with Kimberly Rivers Roberts, it fits. Trouble the Water, you do not want to miss.