Harry Shearer and The Big Uneasy

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

Many of our listeners, as well as much of the country, might be tired of hearing about New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but actor Harry Shearer has made a new documentary about WHY his adopted hometown flooded in August 2005. Shearer is best known as bassist Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap and as the voice of many important characters on The Simpsons (C. Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers and Ned Flanders to name just a few). Now Shearer has used his background in journalism to produce The Big Uneasy which features the work of three scientists who were blocked in their investigations of what caused the unnatural disaster in New Orleans and who faced personal and professional retributions for their efforts to get at the truth. Ivor van Heerden ran LSU’s Hurricane Center and led an independent investigation into why the flood protection systems around New Orleans failed. Robert Bea is an engineering professor at UC Berkeley who began his career with the Army Corps of Engineers (which does not come off looking too good in Shearer’s documentary) who helped lead a separate independent investigation. And Maria Garzino was responsible for overseeing the testing of new pumps the Army Corps of Engineers installed in New Orleans to prevent another catastrophic flooding event in the city. The trouble is the pumps will not work as advertised. The whistleblower was named Public Servant of the Year by the government’s Office of Special Counsel.

The Big Uneasy opens this weekend in Santa Barbara, California, St. Augustine, Florida and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.