After Hurricane Katrina: a series in the jaws of tragedy

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She remembers bitter days in the hospital, moments when circumstances forced her to be with family and loved ones with deteriorating health, and many times it was imperative to make decisions on their behalf or in their company.

“I’ve had life experiences that contributed,” says Vera Farmiga, though “the most important thing was relying on an incredibly well-written script, with the goal of doing my best to give the audience an experience of what it was like to be in the place of she”.

Photo: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Connected to a video call with Worshipthe interpreter of the saga The spell and the series Bates Motel delivers the keys to her approach to embody Dr. Anna Pou, a character thrown into an unfortunate situation: when in August 2005 the ravages caused by Hurricane Katrina forced the workers of the Memorial Hospital (New Orleans) to choose which patients evacuate first and who later, and in many cases who simply let die.

Farmiga’s role is at the center of the drama of After Hurricane Katrina (whose original title is Five days at Memorial), the miniseries that premiered this Friday on the Apple TV + platform with three of its eight chapters.

Created by renowned screenwriters John Ridley (12 years a slave) and Carlton Cuse (lost), the production is based on the celebrated book about the case published in 2013 by physician and journalist Sheri Fink. The same author who, according to the actress, became a crucial source during her process.

“She not only (interviewed) Anna, but also Anna’s family members, her friends, her colleagues, members of the hospital team, her patients. If you want to know what a doctor is like, ask their patients,” she notes.

What happened inside the Memorial hospital was a tragedy within a larger tragedy: after the intensity of Katrina, one of the most destructive hurricanes on record, ceased, 45 bodies were found in the medical establishment’s facilities . Consequently, the State of Louisiana initiated an investigation and Dr. Pou was one of the professionals accused of homicide.

“They have to understand the circumstances,” says a character at the beginning of the first episode of the fiction, at a time when the authorities question the procedures carried out by the staff.

That dramatic density was already present in Fink’s journalistic work and to preserve it “I tried to translate my own emotional experience into what we see on the screen”, says Carlton Cuse, who prevailed over other producers interested in the rights.

“Our skit focused on the kind of emotional truths that were powerful and painful. Good storytelling is about trying to get inside a character and then going on a journey with them,” explains the filmmaker.

Made up of an extensive cast (Farmiga, Cherry Jones, Cornelius Smith Jr., Robert Pine, Adepero Oduye, Julie Ann Emery) and with increasingly distressing chapters, the plot revolves around ethical dilemmas while striking an emotional chord.

“I think that the personal is universal and I hope that through the exploration of these personal stories, people can understand how socially we deal with some issues that arise with these kinds of natural disasters,” Cuse concludes.

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