Self-reflexivity is a funny thing: it can either allow documentary directors to broach their subject from the inside out, casting light on the otherwise concealed process of filmmaking, or it can severely distract by putting the director in the spotlight at the expense of the subject. The Axe in the Attic, Lucia Small and Ed Pincus’s documentary on the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, unfortunately falls in the latter category. It contains some riveting testimony of New Orleans’s destruction and the aftermath from the storm’s refugees, but it’s also sabotaged by a tone-deaf attempt to hold a mirror up to the directors’ liberal misgivings about undertaking such a project. It’s not the concept that’s inherently flawed—one day when the time is right and the execution works somebody will have created an illuminating portrait of both the legacy of Katrina and the unavoidable difficulties of engaging the issue from across racial and economic divides. But until then we’ll have to learn from the mistakes of others, and that’s probably the most generous way to view The Axe in the Attic.