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"Katrina Babies" filmmaker wants to share untold stories of children who lived through the disaster

"This is not another Katrina story. This is a story that hasn't been told."

NEW ORLEANS — As we approach the 17th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall, it’s a time many of us just don’t want to re-live.

We suppress the memories. We said a long time ago, we wanted to look forward.

But New Orleans Filmmaker Edward Buckles says he created a film he hopes will force us to confront that trauma. More importantly, remember the children that have felt forgotten.

The debut of “Katrina Babies” is seven years in the making. A documentary film, shining a light on a generation whose childhoods were defined by disaster.

The film will air on HBO and HBO Max on August 24th.

Leading up to a screening, Buckles held community events highlighting artwork done by local young artists at Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center and promoting mental health and wellness.

“I didn't realize the power of telling your own story," Buckles said. “I didn't realize the power of speaking about things and how that's healing.

The film features some of the students Buckles taught at Edna Karr High School which he attended in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“Edna Karr saved my life, literally. This school saved my life.”

Buckles credits Edna Karr High School with helping him to change his life trajectory. Something he attempted to do for his students. He returned to Karr once he graduated college, teaching Digital Media… before soaring towards a film career.

“I told them I'm going to be back in a bigger way, so it feels good to be back in this way you know telling their stories.”

He’s also telling the stories of the kids whose memories would be stained by the death and devastation that immediately followed Hurricane Katrina.

Initially, Buckles says he wanted to explore parallels between so-called “Katrina Babies” and the behavior they’re experiencing almost 17 years later.

“I was watching archival, like hours of footage of archival that I found of my family before Hurricane Katrina,” Buckles said. “I never cry. I just broke down and started crying. For the first time, it hit me that I'm still not healed from losing my family to Hurricane Katrina.”

Buckles hopes that same breakthrough and realization happens for all "Katrina Babies".

“It took me a while to accept that as being a trauma because it's not like I lost a life, it's not like I was in the water because I evacuated. But, the disruption of my family dynamic and identity and having that stripped away from me. That's trauma.”

Buckles admits to not coining the “Katrina Babies” phrase but personally finds it to be any child during the storm who couldn’t take care of themselves.

“A lot of what those children experienced on those roofs, in those attics, when they are being airlifted,” Buckles said. “Those who evacuated, who stayed in shelters and were separated from their families and their homes. Even if it didn't hit them then, it's hitting them now or it may hit them years from now.”

He calls it a big piece of rebuilding and recovery that had gone forgotten.

Despite his anticipation for “Katrina Babies,” some say another "Katrina Story" isn't what they need.

“But this is not another Katrina story. This is a story that hasn't been told about their children and Hurricane Katrina will never be over until we hear their full stories from all perspectives, especially the children because its impact and our trauma is surfacing now,” Buckles said. 

Buckles said it’s evident in the rise in crime we are seeing in New Orleans today.

Through these first-hand accounts, Buckles gives “Katrina Babies” room to release emotions that have been suppressed for some 16 years.

Especially on the heels of the 17th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Buckles wants to open a door for “Katrina Babies” to find a pathway to healing.

“Every time I show this film to a Hurricane Katrina survivor, what I am doing is retraumatizing them. So, I have to make sure I offer wellness and help.”

The HBO Documentary Film Katrina Babies debuts on HBO and HBO Max on August 24, 2022.

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