The Axe in the Attic

A road trip in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina entwines a critique of the documentarian and humanitarian urges with stories of strength in true community.

Available Online: Friday, June 26 – Thursday, July 16
Director: Lucia Small and Ed Pincus
Film Details: 2007, 110 minutes, digital, color, sound, English

Suggested Ticket Price: Donate to Black Lives Matter Boston

New England Legacy Film! World Premiere at NYFF. Official selection of Human Rights Watch, Cinéma du Réel, Full Frame, and Provincetown.

Filmmaker Lucia Small will attend via Zoom for a Q&A with the DocYard’s Guest Curator, Abby Sun at 3 PM EST on Wednesday, July 8.

Screen the film here!

View the recorded Q&A here!

About the Film:

A quick prologue establishes the basics of this road trip: moved by images of destruction on TV, filmmaker Lucia Small convinces Ed Pincus to make his first film in decades. Together, they spend two months filming the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. They start by recording encounters with evacuees on their drive to the disaster zone. In Pittsburgh, one former New Orleanian explains the film’s title: after Hurricane Bessie in 1965, many residents started keeping an axe in the attic of their homes to break through their roofs and avoid drowning, recognizing that help often came too late.

When Small and Pincus arrive in New Orleans, they find a system that has failed and residents who are variously resigned, overwhelmed, and stoic in their determination to rebuild. The stories they tell are full of complaints about labyrinthian red tape and police brutality, two threads that have dominated current media coverage of COVID-19 and recent protests. Are the nonprofits and people—like Small and Pincus themselves—who have hurried to New Orleans doing more harm than good? The Axe in the Attic doesn’t allow us to look away: the exact complexity of these relationships are tangled, and often remain disturbingly so. Unlike conventional issue-based documentaries, or even those who ostensibly reveal the subjectivity of the filmmaker, these two directors share their disagreements and qualms with each other, train the lens on themselves, and maintain separate voiceovers. This brave, enduring film interrogates the limits of the first-person perspective that has since abounded in reality tv, body cameras, cell phone cameras, and even fiction films that traffic in the authenticity of the handheld point of view. (AS)

Lucia Small Select Filmography
One Cut, One Life (2014)
Lower Ninth Ward (2008, short)
The Axe in the Attic (2007)
My Father, The Genius (2002)

Ed Pincus Select Filmography
One Cut, One Life (2014)
The Axe in the Attic (2007)
Diaries: 1971-1976 (1981) 
Life and Other Anxieties (1977) 
Black Natchez (1967)