In the thriller genre, Hollywood has been able to make some reasonably effective use of the shaky handheld camerawork prevalent on YouTube. Much of Trouble the Water, a documentary collaboration between filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin and amateur camerawoman Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott Roberts, has that same look, but it conveys a genuine sense of fear and urgency.

In the thriller genre, Hollywood has been able to make some reasonably effective use of the shaky handheld camerawork prevalent on YouTube. Much of Trouble the Water, a documentary collaboration between filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin and amateur camerawoman Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott Roberts, has that same look, but it conveys a genuine sense of fear and urgency.

Without a car, Kimberly and Scott knew they couldn't heed calls to evacuate their home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. But Kimberly did have a new video camera, and she kept it going until she ran out of batteries, more than a day after the storm subsided and the couple had joined friends and family in the attic of a flooded house.

When they managed to escape, the Robertses witnessed thousands desperate for help at the Superdome and a potentially deadly face-off between the Navy and Katrina refugees over shelter space, and heard firsthand from Kim's brother what happened in the area's prisons.

Full of common sense and powerful rhymes (she's an aspiring rapper whose songs are featured), Kimberly Roberts perfectly channels the audience's feelings of shock and frustration. Fortunately, she's also got a strongly optimistic spirit and a love of community that allows the horror of it all to impact without killing a sense of hope.

"Trouble the Water"

Opens Friday at Landmark's Gateway Theater

Grade: A-