We were discussing various film ideas when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Mesmerized, horrified, and disillusioned by the events unfolding in New Orleans, we decided this was the film we wanted to make.
Katrina brought about the largest internal migration in U.S. history, even larger than that brought on by the Dust Bowl. This would be a story that would not only affect generations to come, but one that spoke directly to our country’s complicated history.
The issues of Katrina addressed many of our main concerns – such as how race, class, and gender affect everyday interactions. We wanted to tell the story with social issues emerging through people’s lives rather than relying on experts or celebrities to tell it. We were also both committed to making narrative social documentaries that explore the underlying assumptions of documentary film.
We discussed how to make a film about the immense topic of Katrina – and how to give the life of each of our subjects his or her proper due, while capturing the scope of the disaster. The focus of the film would be on the story of people uprooted and displaced — the Diaspora of Hurricane Katrina. It would ask what it means to be exiled in one’s own country, with a government that is conspicuously absent.
Our aim with The Axe in the Attic was to create an intimate film with the people we would meet, along with an immersion in the American landscape in which the evacuees find themselves – as though the viewer was there. It was important for us to reproduce the raw feelings and weight that such a disaster has on people’s daily lives.