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The Big Uneasy

A documentary investigates how human error led to Hurricane Katrina damage

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Funnyman Harry Shearer takes the director's seat for a film with few laughs: His (literally) muck-raking documentary lays out the case that most of the devastation in New Orleans attributed to Hurricane Katrina was not the result of an unthinkable natural disaster but rather stemmed from preventable human error. Shearer turns much of the film over to two key men, academics at University of California-Berkeley and Louisiana State University, respectively, who led independent research teams immediately after the storm. Each found ample evidence that the poorly designed levee system built by the Army Corps of Engineers resulted in the massive flooding that caused most of the damage. Other experts weigh in on related issues, such as the shrinking wetlands or the political coziness of the Corps. The Big Uneasy is technically chewy at times -- this is civil engineering -- but easy enough to understand: None of this bodes well for the future of New Orleans (though Shearer brings in some civic boosters, like actor John Goodman) or, by extension, other pieces of national infrastructure we rely on that have yet to meet a real test. Starts Fri., April 8. Harris

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