FDL Movie Night: From Big Easy to Big Empty

Following the first broadcast of this film a criminal complaint was filed against producer Matt Pascarella and reporter Greg Palast by the Department of Homeland Security. The charge, filming “critical infrastructure” was dropped.

Maybe DHS was annoyed because From Big Easy to Big Empty, filmed a year after Hurricane Katrina, is critical of infrastructure, specifically Innovative Emergency Management of Baton Rouge which was paid a half-million dollars in 2004 to deliver a emergency preparedness and evacuation plan of New Orleans–only no one could find the plan when it was needed–that’s pretty innovative; and of FEMA itself which at the time of the filming, in 2006, had displaced 73,000 residents into trailer parks. Palast interviews a resident who explains that there is only one bus out of the ironically named, barb-wired ringed Camp Renaissance, and it only goes to the Wal-Mart.

Palast is a seasoned investigative reporter who fares best when he drops the fedora and gets down and dirty with bureaucrats and prevaricators. In the past he’s exposed Pat Robertson (which I hope he discusses with us tonight!), the War on Terror,  and the secret State Department documents planning the seizure of Iraq’s oil fields.  His racketeering probe of a nuclear plant operator led to one of the largest jury judgments in US history. He rocks and he has balls.

And what Palast discovers about about the evacuation of New Orleans and the reasons that housing projects have not been repopulated by original residents will stun you. Palast interviews a city councilman, survivors, activists, and Deputy Director of Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center Igor Van Heerden, who risked his job to speak with Palast telling him

FEMA knew at eleven o’clock on Monday that the levees had breached, at 2 o’clock they flew over the 17th St. Canal and took video of the breaches, by midnight on Monday the White House knew, but none of us knew.

Palast also provides us with a freakish interview with an apparatchik at Innovative Emergency Management. Palast gets to some very interesting why’s which are stomach turning and reprehensible.  They show a foundation of racism and dislike of the poor inherent in our bureaucratic systems.

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