The images, the memories, the traumas: It's been a year since Harvey submerged Houston, and they've all come flooding back as the region tries to move on.
Local filmmakers Whitney and Alex Douglas offer their new documentary, Harvey's Heroes, as one way to remember and process the disaster. When Harvey made landfall, they were actually in Florida on assignment. But as soon as airports opened back up, they were on the first Delta flight into Houston.
The couple spent the next five weeks darting from place to place documenting larger-than-life figures like Mattress Mack and pit master Ronnie Killen, who each turned over their businesses to the disaster effort. Both men shared a clear sense of responsibility: “How do you impact someone who’s had their house flooded, their cars flooded?" Killen asks. "One: shelter. Two: water. Three: food.”
But the Douglases were equally amazed at small stories—the people feeding their neighbors from their kitchen, the woman purging load after load of flood-tainted laundry. "Everybody loves clean sheets—it’s just a sense of home," she says.
The completed film opens amid raging chaos. Trees bend in the wind, newscasters are almost blown away, and boats and helicopters scramble onto the scene. Dramatic drone shots survey the submerged neighborhoods and fields of flooded-out vehicles. Then slowly, face after face, the camera captures these heroes large and small reasserting control over their lives through generosity and sheer force of will.
Throughout those weeks of filming and no matter where they traveled in Houston, the Douglases discovered a single narrative.
"What we noticed was these really diverse communities all saying the same thing: We were all just willing to help our neighbors and total strangers. The storm made us all brothers," says Whitney. "It was really moving from a sheer emotional perspective."
"We hope that this film can be a little balm to the divisiveness around our country and our city and our dinner tables," Whitney says. "We hope the film can act as a good reminder that we can have that choice to help each other out."
Released around the one-year anniversary—amid voting on the Harvey flood bond—it's also a reminder of how much of Houston has yet to recover.
"Revisiting some of the same streets where we shot that were completely devastated, and you ride your bike by them, they look normal," Alex Douglas says. "But a lot of them—nobody’s living in them."
But no matter. As one of the film's subjects boldly states: “We’re going to rebuild together—love is stronger than water.”
Watch Harvey's Heroes from Sculpting with Time Productions below.