A Hurricane of Inspiration

Down in the Gulf Coast, all eyes are on Hurricane Isaac, rolling in seven years after Hurricane Katrina and a year after we had to deal with Hurriane Irene—memories of that cleanup effort are still fresh. We’re crossing fingers, knocking wood, and hoping that Isaac leaves with minimal damage.

Once it does, though, it just might provide some inspiration. Even though it’s been years, artists are still processing what happened in New Orleans with Katrina through their movies, music, books, and TV shows—and awards-worthy ones, too.  Some examples:

Beasts of the Southern Wild

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This lyrical, dreamy film, directed by Hastings-on-Hudson native Benh Zeitlin, lit up Sundance when it premiered there earlier this year and came home with the Grand Jury Prize. While not directly about Katrina, the fable does take place in “a southern Delta community” that’s plagued with rising water. Beasts of the Southern Wild is still playing in theaters, but you’ll probably have to travel to the city to see it.


When it debuted in 2010, Treme—David Simon’s HBO series about residents of New Orleans rebuilding after Katrina—was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (by Steve Earle). When it debuted, Slant wrote that the show “puts everything into every scene. The camerawork is rich and the direction squeezes every nuance from the actors. The city’s history has been painstakingly researched and effortlessly inserted into the writing.” The third season premieres on September 23.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

After its publication last year, Jesmyn Ward’s novel came home with the National Book Award. Like Beasts of the Southern Wild, it’s another lyrical take on Hurricane Katrina, this time following Skeetah, a pregnant 14-year-old, and her family. The New York Times says the book “feels fresh and urgent, but it’s an ancient, archetypal tale. Think of Noah or Gilgamesh or any soggy group of humans and dogs huddled together, waiting out an apocalyptic act of God or weather.”

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