Review: ‘After the Storm’

Made more for the kids' sake than to communicate their story to outside auds.

Oscar-winning activist James Lecesne knew he’d made an inspired choice mounting the Broadway “hurricane musical” “Once on This Island” in a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, and it shows in his subsequent decision to chronicle a Gotham team’s uphill efforts to recruit teenagers from the city’s Lower Ninth Ward to perform the show in a damaged community center. But Lecesne and helmer Hilla Medalia are too close to the process, and the resulting documentary, “After the Storm,” feels like it was made more for the kids’ sake than to communicate their story to outside auds, who would likely prefer a condensed newsmag-style recap.

It’s no fault of the young performers that a protracted retelling of their rehearsal process fails to excite; Medalia might have devoted less attention to the drama-prone adults (including original “Island” castmember Gerry McIntyre). More context, along the lines of the intermittent video diary entries and visits to the teens’ storm-ravaged homes, would have made the inspiring opening-night finale even more effective (as would steadier equipment and a more professional crew), since the backstage quibbles seem but minor hurdles compared with the personal challenges they overcome in the process.

After the Storm

Production

A Priddy Brothers presentation in association with Know Prods. Produced by Hilla Medalia, John Priddy, Ed Priddy. Executive producers, John Priddy, Ed Priddy, James Lecesne; co-producer, Katie Schulz. Directed by Hilla Medalia. Screenplay, Bob Eisenhardt, Medalia.

Crew

Camera (color DV), Ran Shetreet, William Sabourin O'Reilly, Guy Jackson; editor, Eisenhardt; music, Steven Flaherty. Reviewed at the Landmark, Los Angeles, June 9, 2009. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

James Lecesne, Randy Redd, Gerry McIntyre, Peg Culligan, Rayan Arnold, Annie Britton, Eric T. Calhoun, Griffin Collins III, Deshawn Dabney, Joel Callonia Dyson, Hannah Guillory, Grant Hunter, Taylor Mars, Ashley Rose Richard, Jasmin Simmons, Jon Stevenson, April Stewart.

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