After the Storm -- Film Review

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There have been several documentaries about Hurricane Katrina, but one of the most novel and affecting approaches the calamity indirectly.

"After the Storm" chronicles the efforts of a few New York-based theater people to make their own modest contribution to the citizens of New Orleans. St. Mark's Community Center, built in 1908, was destroyed by the storm, and to help rebuild the center some New Yorkers decide to enlist young people -- mainly blacks -- to stage a revival of "Once on This Island," a Tony-nominated hit from the 1990s. The musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens was set on a Caribbean island attempting to recover from a hurricane, so the themes spoke to the crisis in New Orleans. Although the film doesn't match the impact of the recent hit documentary "Every Little Step," about the revival of "A Chorus Line," it's an engaging piece of humanistic storytelling that will play well on the festival circuit and might even have modest theatrical potential.

Gerry McIntyre, who was in the cast of the original production of "Island," is one of the leading figures behind this revival along with producer James Lecesne and musical director Randy Redd. As they select the young cast members, we learn the histories of the kids. Many had lost their homes in the hurricane, and as their personal stories unfold and we see their gutted homes, the tragedy registers on a concrete human level.

The film follows a familiar arc as it builds toward the opening-night performance. Director Hilla Medalia captures some of the less-predictable tensions, including McIntyre's impatience with some of the inexperienced young performers. Nevertheless, the outcome is gratifying, not just for the kids but for the community center, which is again up and running in New Orleans. Editing by Medalia's co-writer, Bob Eisenhardt, keeps the energy up, and the film does a fine job of highlighting this specific musical production while also doing justice to the larger social canvas. Composers Flaherty and Ahrens even contributed a rousing new song that plays over the end credits.

Venue: Los Angeles Film Festival
Production: Priddy Brothers, Know Productions
Director: Hilla Medalia
Screenwriters: Bob Eisenhardt, Hilla Medalia
Producers: Hilla Medalia, John Priddy, Ed Priddy
Executive producers: John Priddy, Ed Priddy, James Lecesne
Directors of photography: Ran Shetreet, William Sabourin O'Reilly, Guy Jackson
Music: Stephen Flaherty
Editor: Bob Eisenhardt
Not rated, 90 minutes