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By Doug Brunell | July 13, 2008

If I could give a film a star rating based on its intentions, this film would rate much higher. That’s not the case, however, and I must judge films by the final product. I put “Beyond Despair” into the DVD player expecting a short documentary about hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. What I got was actually less informative than a two-minute piece on any of the mainstream news programs.

This film focuses on a few people from the Mississippi coast whose homes were destroyed by Katrina. We hear them talk about how the insurance companies won’t pay out and then get to see various volunteers (many of them from faith-based organizations) helping to repair their dwellings. That’s it. Homes destroyed. Insurance companies doing their usual nonsense. Volunteers coming to help because the people paid to take care of this sort of thing claim no responsibility. None of that is new; it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. How can anyone take a disaster of such magnitude and scope and not make a gripping and emotional documentary? Katrina alone is a subject you could do several documentaries on. The aftermath and how it was handled? That will be investigated for years to come. So why this?

I understand that six minutes is not a lot to work with, which could explain some of the problems here. The obvious solution, however, is to either focus on one family, the insurance company problem, or do six minutes of mind-numbing statistics that would adequately convey the nature of Katrina. None of that was done, however. The filmmakers, like the government and the insurance companies, have let the victims of this tragedy down. I’d expect that from the government and those companies, but not from the people who made this, whose hearts seem to be in the right place. I hold them to a higher standard, but as this shows, maybe I shouldn’t.

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