Judith Helfand directed this Kartemquin-produced documentary about America’s preparedness for natural disasters, which argues that when widespread tragedies occur, low-income communities are likely to suffer far worse than others. Helfand begins the film by considering the Chicago heat wave of 1995, when hundreds of people (the majority of them poor) died due to inadequate home design and the city’s failure to provide aid to those in need. She then looks at disaster preparation programs in the present, noting that virtually none of them have plans to help blighted communities where the intertwined problems of dilapidated architecture, food deserts, and lack of access to government services constitute a disaster already. The film bites off more than it can chew—Helfand has a lot on her mind, and it often feels as though she’s cramming in too many concerns—but its argument is persuasive and worrying.
By Ben Sachs