Disaster Documentaries

Katrina Babies
This documentary captures the voices of young Hurricane Katrina survivors 16 years later as they share their stories of survival, displacement, systemic neglect, and the ways they created their own path to recovering from the disaster.

Fatal Flood
Fatal flood documents the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, focusing on racial strife caused by exploitive practices employed to contain the river at Greenville, Mississippi.

Bring Your Own Brigade
This documentary includes footage from filmmaker Lucy Walker as she was embedded with a team of firefighters working in Malibu and Paradise, California, as well as footage from residents as they fled from the flames. The film uses the eyewitness accounts to probe the causes and solutions of wildfires worldwide.

Cooked: Survival by Zipcode
A documentary of the 1995 Chicago heatwave that killed 739 people, Cooked offers a fresh investigation of the disaster within a disaster that primarily affected poor, elderly black people in the city.

Unprepared: An Oregon Field Guide Special
In light of Oregon’s significant earthquake risk, this documentary delves into the state’s level of preparedness and, as the title suggests, finds that its schools, hospitals, bridges, and infrastructure are not ready to withstand the risk.

Merchants of Doubt
Merchants of Doubt details the use of public relations strategies—first pioneered by the tobacco industry—that present false science to successfully distract consumers by misrepresenting the risk of everything from dangerous chemicals in everyday objects to greenhouse gas emissions. Based on the book of the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, this film shows the subterfuges used to cause confusion.

3.11: Surviving Japan in 2011
Director Christopher Noland explores the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. The film illustrates the disaster and government policies interact to increase risk, especially for vulnerable survivors.

Children of the Tsunami
This film features firsthand accounts from child survivors of the 2011 tsunami that followed the Tōhoku Earthquake, painting a picture of the resilience in young people, as well as hope for the future.

Trouble the Water
Trouble the Water focuses on the survival experience of a couple living in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, documenting their retreat to higher ground, the rescues of loved ones, and return to the city in the face of repeated policy failures.

Bam 6.6
Bam 6.6 offers a tear-jerking tale of an American couple—one Jewish and one Christian—trapped in the ancient Iranian city after a major earthquake in 2003. The documentary offers layers of context, such as religious and political history, that highlight a captivating and entirely human story.

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Set shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Spike Lee created this documentary with the intent to "[focus] on the profound loss, as well as the indomitable spirit of New Orleanians." Offering interviews, news footage, and still photos, it offers a thorough introduction to Hurricane Katrina and its profound impact on America.

The Storm
The Storm is a Frontline PBS examination of how and why government at every level was unprepared, uncoordinated, and overwhelmed by the disaster brought on by Hurricane Katrina. Released only months after Hurricane, this documentary investigates the "political storm" surrounding the devastation of America’s Gulf Coast.

Have a documentary we should add? Please email us at hazctr@colorado.edu to let us know.