When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006– )

TV Series  -   -  Documentary
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An examination of the U.S. government's role and its response to Hurricane Katrina.

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Title: When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006– )

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Won 3 Primetime Emmys. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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In August 2005, the American city of New Orleans was struck by the powerful Hurricane Katrina. Although the storm was damaging by itself, that was not the true disaster. That happened when the city's flooding safeguards like levees failed and put most of the city, which is largely below sea level, underwater. This film covers that disastrous series of events that devastated the city and its people. Furthermore, the gross incompetence of the various governments and the powerful from the local to the federal level is examined to show how the poor and underprivileged of New Orleans were mistreated in this grand calamity and still ignored today. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

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An American Tragedy

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13 December 2006 (Finland)  »

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When the Levees Broke  »

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(2 parts)

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A moving requiem, not an autopsy
23 August 2006 | by (New Orleans LA) – See all my reviews

A requiem is a service intended to express the emotions and beliefs of the survivors at the death of a loved one. A requiem is not an autopsy to determine the cause of death, and if Spike Lee intended a requiem, I think he has succeeded. Criticism that this film is not analytical and precise is actually a complaint that this was not an autopsy--but none was intended.

One day a documentary may be made which closely follows the chronology of the storm and the failure of the levees. A documentary may more closely focus on the devastation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the equally shameful failure of government to deal with the problem there. A documentary may be made which focuses on how daily life has changed for those of us who survived. I don't think Spike Lee intended to cover all of those points. The points he did address were very well presented.

The film is outstanding at communicating the grief, suffering and frustrations of the persons shown in the film. It is a very moving expression of emotion and belief, which is the purpose of a requiem.

I don't think the lack of government response is simply and solely attributable to racism, but that may be because I am white. In the film, that opinion was frequently expressed, but I also note that there were also some opinions expressed about the levees being intentionally dynamited. I think Spike Lee undercut the impact of his major premise by including a rumor that seems similar to the myths of Bigfoot or Elvis being alive.

I think the gross government ineptitude, inertia and political games are all well-documented, and the bottom line is that those persons who were financially able to take care of themselves fared better than those who were not--it's a matter of class and wealth, and not so much a matter of race.

In yesterday's news, it was noted that Congress earlier appropriated $17 billion to build new houses in the affected areas, and that as of this date (August 22, 2006), not a single house has been built with that money in either Louisiana or Mississippi.


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