HOW TO SEE PBS POV’S CAROLYN PARKER:
The national debut is Thursday, September 20, 2012, in the PBS POV film series. However, PBS air times vary widely. Check local listings or visit the PBS POV website for the Carolyn Parker film. That web page has a trailer for the film, a link to check local listings, plus that’s the page to watch for updates on alternative showings. Sometimes films are posted online or are available for digital devices.
Review of the Documentary,
‘I’m Carolyn Parker:
Good, Mad and Beautiful,’
By ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm
The 2005 devastation of Hurricane Katrina is one of the most popular American sagas of tragedy and survival. Evidence of that is the highly praised HBO series TREME about New Orleans families rebuilding their lives after Katrina. In addition to various film and TV glimpses of post-Katrina life, there are books, too. That includes Dick Wolff’s moving The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back, which also tells Carolyn Parker’s story.
In the documentary and the book, Carolyn Parker lives through a gripping, years-long odyssey to hold her historic home together in one of the poorest sections of the infamous Lower Ninth Ward. Wolff not only wrote the book about Carolyn and other survivors—he also is a producer on this documentary, shot over five years. The film’s director is Oscar-winning Jonathan Demme, best known for his feature films such as Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia.
Wolff and Demme are terrific storytellers themselves and they cut away all the stuff you already know about Hurricane Katrina to give us just this vivid slice of real life: Carolyn Parker’s life, that is. Even at that scale of one woman and one family, the real-life truth becomes clear: In America’s ever-deepening chasm between rich and poor—the poor live like modern-day Jobs, the tragic figure in the Bible who faced one awful scourge after another. Folks like Carolyn Parker are tough and they love their families just like rich people do, but every single step toward survival is tougher than it is for the rest of us.
When we meet Carolyn Parker, neighbors line up to tell Demme and his crew that this is one noble, beloved woman. This is a woman who tenaciously clutches classic American values of right and wrong, love of family and her deep Christian faith—and who makes it clear to neighbors that her home is an oasis of those values no matter what else is rumbling through that ravaged area of New Orleans.
All that was challenged by the monster hurricane. Of course, we know the failure of Bush-administration responses. Demme doesn’t dwell on that, because the real story here is that Carolyn Parker’s woes went on for years. If you love TV shows about real-life home renovations against all odds—such shows are everywhere on cable TV these days—then you’ll enjoy seeing how Carolyn and her friends and her wonderfully supportive daughter manage to overcome everything life throws at them.
In 2010, ReadTheSpirit reported on another such courageous neighborhood of New Orleans, the Vietnamese-Catholic neighborhood that rebuilt in a similarly dramatic way. Now, Carolyn Parker takes us into the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward and welcomes us—like this warm-hearted woman welcomes all visitors—to learn what real life feels like in utterly impoverished America. And, lest you fear a depressing ride, this isn’t entirely terrible stuff. We learn how Carolyn cooks her popular stovetop turkey. We see Carolyn at worship in her Catholic church. We hear her explain how we all should set aside a special corner of our homes as a small shrine for prayer. This is, indeed, a wise woman with lots to share.
If you care about Americans struggling to survive in the poorest corners of our country, then don’t miss Carolyn Parker. She’s pushed the front door open for the filmmakers—and for the rest of America, too.
Care to read more about these issues in America and worldwide? The OurValues column compares U.S. data on poverty and financial opportunity with more than a dozen other developed natoions.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.