POV: Getting Back to Abnormal
Monday, July 14 at 10:00 p.m.
What happens when America’s most joyous, dysfunctional city rebuilds itself after a disaster?
The ongoing drama of New Orleans’ struggle to rise after Hurricane Katrina gets a provocative update in the new documentary "Getting Back to Abnormal." Serving up a rich Louisiana mix of race, money, corruption and politics, the film tells the story of the polarizing re-election campaign of a white woman to a city council seat traditionally held by a black representative. Featuring a cast of characters as colorful as the city itself, the film presents a New Orleans that outsiders rarely see.
An official selection of the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, "Getting Back to Abnormal," as entertaining as it is serious about race in New Orleans, focuses on the 2010 re-election campaign of Stacy Head. She sees herself as a colorblind anti-corruption crusader whose sometimes jaw-droppingly politically incorrect language puts her squarely in the middle of a new black and white political battleground. Her opponents, in turn, mince no words, branding Head a racist for supporting policies that they say are driving African-Americans out of power in City Hall.
A twist in the campaign is the presence of Barbara Lacen-Keller, Head’s black aide with immense street cred. As the unofficial “mayor” of the old Central City neighborhood, Lacen-Keller sets out to prove that her boss isn’t a racist, but rather someone who gets things done for the community. Welcome to the new New Orleans.
The city that hosted the country’s largest slave market and the birth of jazz, with its unique American blend of black, white and Creole cultures, has a special place in the story of race in America. Early in "Getting Back to Abnormal," African-American blogger Deborah Cotton tells us that while “whites and blacks interact here like families do . . . there’s this deep love and affection, but also deep wounds.”
Top photo: Councilwoman Stacy Head and her friend and political adviser Barbara Lacen-Keller.
Pictured at right: Henry Irwin, the last man standing in his devastated New Orleans neighborhood, the Lower Ninth Ward.