A SXSW 2013 selection, the multi-director feature documentary from Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Peter Odabashian, Paul Stekler, titled Getting Back To Abnormal, will have its broadcast TV premiere on PBS’ award-winning series POV (Point of View), on Monday, July 14.
The ITVS/Center for New American Media/Midnight Films project mixes fly-on-the-wall verité footage, with interviews, as it charts the next chapter of life in New Orleans.
Here’s a lengthy synopsis:
Getting Back to Abnormal is entertaining as it is serious about race in New Orleans, focuses on the 2010 re-election campaign of Stacy Head. She sees herself as a colorblind anti-corruption crusader whose sometimes jaw-droppingly politically incorrect language puts her squarely in the middle of a new black and white political battleground. Her opponents, in turn, mince no words, branding Head a racist for supporting policies that they say are driving African-Americans out of power in City Hall. A twist in the campaign is the presence of Barbara Lacen-Keller, Head’s larger-than-life black aide with immense street cred. As the unofficial “mayor” of the old Central City neighborhood, Lacen-Keller sets out to prove that her boss isn’t a racist, but rather someone who gets things done for the community. Welcome to the new New Orleans. Head first won election by challenging and defeating the old black political power structure. Yet she helped to herald the same dramatic change in New Orleans: the political consequences that ensued when many of the city’s poorer African Americans left due to Katrina and never returned. She strongly backed the reconstruction of the city—with Head best known for her work helping small business and literally fixing potholes—but, along with a majority of black city council members, supported the destruction of the old public housing projects that were home to a significant percentage of New Orleans’ black residents pre-Katrina. Some of that fallout can be found in the story of Stephanie Mingo, an Orleans Parish school board employee and mother of four who was evacuated during Katrina from the St. Bernard public housing project. She and other former residents failed to stop demolition of St. Bernard and then refused housing in the new “mixed-income” Columbia Parc development built on its site—protesting the dramatically reduced number of low-income units and what they see as dehumanizing new rules for residents. In a climactic scene in Getting Back to Abnormal, Mingo’s frustrations come to a head when she’s out in the rain, protesting Barack and Michelle Obama’s visit to this “model” development.
The film gives audiences a look at the state of New Orleans politics and culture over five years after Hurricane Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. It’s set against the 2009-2010 local political season, with the election of the first white mayor in a generation, as the film is structured around the city’s complicated, persistent race issue.
It charts the next chapter for the city of New Orleans, bolstered by a divisive city council race, the destruction of the city’s housing projects and the rise of new neighborhoods like Brad Pitt’s eco-friendly Make It Right experiment in the ravaged Lower Ninth Ward, the awareness series like HBO’s Treme raised, and the stories of individual residents who are working towards rebuilding their lives.
Watch the PBS trailer below and check out the web page the network set up for the project (HERE), for extra info on it: