SXSW Interview: The Makers of ‘MINE’ Discuss the Unsung Victims of Katrina

We dragged some hotel chairs together, flipped on a camera, and tricked the director and producer of MINE into thinking we were legitimate journalists in order to bring you a fantastic discussion of ethical and legal gray areas in the wake of a natural disaster.
By  · Published on March 16th, 2009

MINE is a documentary that focus on a fascinating legal and ethical conundrum – managing to present it an an honest, objective way. After Hurricane Katrina hit, the entire nation was hyper-aware of the plight of thousands of people, the lack of a manageable response system, and the enduring hurt of a misplaced population. However, one of the stories that didn’t get broadcast very widely was the steady number of evacuees who were forced to leave their pets behind.

Beyond the forced abandonment – and the very real abandonments that occurred – when families returned, some found that their pet had been rescued and adopted by a new family. This created an intractable situation with no winners. Director Geralyn Pezanoski took notice of the situation and the manifest developments caused by it, and decided to document the issue by sharing the story of several people who found themselves on both sides of the fight.

Earlier today, Rob Hunter and I got a chance to sit down with Pezanoski and producer Erin Essenmacher in the marginally-noisy lobby of the Hilton. The resulting discussion delved into a broad range of topics – the legal and ethical gray areas, the politics of pets, the difficulties of creating a documentary and the tragic nature of an event that shows the staggering weaknesses of a broken system.

Above all, the film acts as a catalyst for a much larger discussion. Should pets be considered property and treated as such? If not, how should they be viewed legally? What happens to animals when human lives are at stake? What standard should be used to ownership when a pet goes through the shelter system? If someone adopts a pet from a shelter, should they be made aware that the previous owner may return and stake a claim to the pet?

Obviously, Hurricane Katrina was a terrible moment in our nation’s history, and the effects of the natural disaster are still being felt in the realm of civic planning and national emergency response procedures.

Our conversation reaches a bit deeper than that, all with the casualness of SXSW and the ambient noise of a busy hotel lobby, and we also talk a bit about the process of bring a documentary to life. You should definitely check out the full interview – now brought to you in glorious video! – which features the fantastic camera-holding skills of Rob Hunter. Lighting design and set design by Hilton.

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