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Ashley - Nicole Sherman Wendell Pierce
Ashley-Nicole Sherman unveils a personal documentary based on Katrina victims’ experiences. By Brandon I. Brooks Sentinel Entertainment Editor New Orleans was altered instantly when the infamous levees “broke” in the Lower Ninth Ward in 2005, flooding the streets and causing mass confusion and hysteria.When Katrina — one of the most lethal hurricanes in U.S. history — struck the Gulf Coast, it left a scar that will never be forgotten.Thousands upon thousands of people were displaced. Many were injured. Homes were lost and lives were taken away.To make matters worse, the government’s response has been terrible, to say the least, considering the long time it’s taking to rebuild the city and bring natives back home.But as the saying goes, “Out of tragedy comes triumph,” and that is evident and documented with the testimonials of actual Hurricane Katrina victims and families.That’s why producer Ashley-Nicole Sherman struck a chord when she decided to unveil a trailer of her documentary, “Last Cry for Katrina,” based on Katrina victims’ firsthand experiences.“This documentary is an effort to encourage the thousands of displaced Orleanians to come on back and build back up the Big Easy,” Sherman said.Sherman felt a responsibility to do this documentary and to honestly tell the story of Katrina. She feels that many media sources have ineffectively covered the tragedy.So in response, Sherman, along with her film partners Claudia Duran and Demetrius Grosse, headed into the trenches of New Orleans and captured perspectives of what life was like immediately following Katrina, at “ground zero.”“Last Cry for Katrina” mainly documents Sherman’s family over a five-year span and captures their plight from tragedy to triumph.“We interview displaced natives and log their progress,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ve captured the story of a city’s fight to be revived and gain introspect into the very nature of the human spirit: the will to survive.“I hope my family’s story serves as an inspiration to every family that suffered this or any similar tragedy. Family first because blood is thicker than water ... even torrential rains and floodwater. After all, without struggle there is no progress ... and progress is a process.”Since 2005, the only bright spot for the city of New Orleans has been the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, who won the Super Bowl in 2009. The Saints’ victory helped reignite hometown pride and spirit, but now that the team has lost in the 2010-11 playoffs, some of the momentum has started to subside. It’s only a matter of time before the real socio-economic and ecological issues are brought back to surface and the city’s rebuilding process is exposed on all fronts.Actor Wendell Pierce, known for notable roles on HBO’s “The Wire” along with “Treme,” is featured in the film along with being a producer on the project. Sherman felt it was important to have Pierce on board because, as a fellow native of the city, he understands and is involved with the rebuilding process. Pierce is part of the Pontchartrain Neighborhood Association, where he is developing houses for people who want to return to New Orleans.“I asked him if we can film him,” said Sherman, referring to how Pierce first came on board with the documentary. “He knew my work and he trusted my work. So we have footage of him and his mom in 2005, and we have footage of him in 2010. So he is an integral part of my piece. He is behind us 100 percent. Our goal is to bring it to television. We are looking to edit about 48 minutes of this and tell the people’s story.”Sherman is now asking for the public’s help, as she needs to raise about $17,000 more to complete the project. The funds will be used to hire an editor, a composer, a graphics person and someone to handle licensing, because Sherman wants to use some of the Saints’ football footage, which can be expensive.People interested in helping can visit www.lastcryforkatrina.co.cc or call (323) 860-0900. There is also a Facebook page where people can visit to share Katrina stories, www.facebook.com/LastCryforKatrina. Sherman shared that people who have a Katrina story to tell can upload a video on the Facebook page and possibly be chosen to make the final cut of the film.“It’s not just my story,” Sherman said. “It’s everybody’s story, it’s an American story.”