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Harry Shearer Talks Expose The Big Uneasy, Media Coverage of Katrina, Spike Lee's "Canards"

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 13, 2011 at 11:27AM

The tagline for Harry Shearer's The Big Uneasy, a Katrina doc that digs into the Army Corps of Engineers' role in the post-hurricane New Orleans flood, reads "Natural Disaster? You Don't Know the Half Of It." Shearer is well-known to public radio listeners for his weekly Sunday talkfest Le Show; the Renaissance man is not only a sharp and funny writer-actor-producer-director and mockumentarian (This is Spinal Tap, For Your Consideration, The Simpsons) but a well-versed media commentator and blogger for The Huffington Post. The half-time New Orleans resident is dead-serious when covering the Katrina debacle. On the eve of the hurricane's fifth anniversary, he decided that putting his own more deeply reported documentary into the conversation might help bring the mainstream media up to speed.
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Thompson on Hollywood

The tagline for Harry Shearer's The Big Uneasy, a Katrina doc that digs into the Army Corps of Engineers' role in the post-hurricane New Orleans flood, reads "Natural Disaster? You Don't Know the Half Of It." Shearer is well-known to public radio listeners for his weekly Sunday talkfest Le Show; the Renaissance man is not only a sharp and funny writer-actor-producer-director and mockumentarian (This is Spinal Tap, For Your Consideration, The Simpsons) but a well-versed media commentator and blogger for The Huffington Post. The half-time New Orleans resident is dead-serious when covering the Katrina debacle. On the eve of the hurricane's fifth anniversary, he decided that putting his own more deeply reported documentary into the conversation might help bring the mainstream media up to speed.

Because HBO had already given space to Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke and Treme, the cabler did not pick up Shearer's expose, which reveals the Army Corps of Engineers as not only incompetent and reckless, but even dangerous. Shearer put his own money behind this intelligent examination of what led the New Orleans levees to break in multiple places and flood 90% of the city. He opened The Big Uneasy for one night at the fifth anniversary, and then took it around to fests like Ashland (which gave Shearer its Rogue Award) and theaters around the country, in some cities that are facing their own threats of Army Corps flood disasters.

See my video interview and trailer below.

This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Genres, Video, Reviews, Interviews , Media, Documentaries, Trailers


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.