Jonathan Demme’s “I’m Carolyn Parker” offers a slender but engaging human-interest angle on the slow-moving recovery effort following Hurricane Katrina. Known for her work on behalf of New Orleans’ heavily impacted Lower Ninth Ward and her fellow residents’ “right to return,” Parker makes a memorable camera subject perfectly suited to Demme’s scruffy, affectionate documaking. Shot over the five years it took to rebuild her house, this smallscreen-bound item reps a worthy addition to the growing body of work on Katrina and its still-ongoing aftermath.
Parker first drew headlines at a January 2006 city council meeting where, after the proposal of a temporary halt to rebuilding efforts in New Orleans’ worst-flooded areas, she publicly retorted, “Over my dead body.” That clip provides a feisty, inspiring counterpoint to the warm, irrepressibly good-humored woman captured here in a series of well-observed human gestures, whether she’s frying chicken in the FEMA trailer she shares with her daughter or worshipping at one of numerous local churches threatened with closure. Resourcefully made docu ties Parker’s advocacy to the civil-rights struggle she vividly recalls living through, which no doubt accounts at least partly for her extraordinary resilience.