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I saw this four-hour documentary here in the city, in an arena with
about 8000 other locals (I was born and raised here and this is my
first visit since Katrina). It was beautiful and had me crying from the
opening montage, with the incredibly beautiful New Orleans music and
Blanchard's haunting score. The point of the movie seemed to me to
document the horrors and outrages that the human beings in the NOLA
area had to survive (as Lee said introducing the movie, be sure you
have a box of Kleenex), as well as their inimitable humor and love of
life that has so far been the ONLY thing to sustain the city. In the
nightmare aftermath of insurance ripoffs, government incompetence and
stinginess, and frequent scorn and betrayal by other "Americans," we
New Orleanians now know that we have NOBODY to rely on but ourselves
and each other. And after watching this movie, I am beginning to have
faith that that might actually be enough. Because we are strong,
resourceful, loving, fun, proud, badass people. And to his enormous
credit, Spike Lee totally gets us and has really captured the soul of
the city itself: its priceless daughters and sons. All of us.
Our local rag, the Times-Picayune, published a racist and misleading review of the movie on the day it was going to be screened, basically saying it only portrayed the black experience of Katrina, whatever that means. Many white people I know didn't want to see it, based on this, which is a horrible mistake. Some of Lee's movies are provocative representations of race relations; this one IS NOT, or at least, not in that sense. Please don't fall for that--the documentary shows many different views, and of course not all "black" views are the same either, as we see, for example, in the astute critique of Condi Rice's shoe shopping jaunt. Racism is certainly an issue in discussing Katrina, but this movie doesn't endorse divisiveness at all.
I think we in the US, or at least in NOLA, ought to know better than to think that we can only relate to people who look like us. I wept for and laughed and cheered almost all the interviewees in the movie, whatever their skin color. The white women in St. Bernard and the black folks from the Lower Nine, the white guy from Uptown and the creoles from around the city. Even the rich couple from Park Island, who reminded my husband of Lovey and Thuston Howell. We are all affected by the events of Katrina, not in the same ways, but that's why this movie can help us. We can see many different Katrina stories and get a bit more sense of the scope and scale of this disaster. I grew up in Gentilly Woods so I identified most with the family in Pontchartrain Park, a few blocks north, even though I'm white and they're black. Go figure.
The bigger point is, white people need to stop freaking out about race and whether NOLA is a "chocolate city" or not, and look at the real problems: the wetlands, the federal, state, and local neglect of the levees, and the problems that preceded: education, economy, infrastructure. Those affect everyone in the city, and people outside NOLA should take heed, these are not just our problems either. This could happen to you.
By far and away the best documentary on Katrina and what happened to
the people of my home, New Orleans. It captures the anger, the despair,
the fear, and the humanity of our country's greatest disaster. I still
cry when I see my city under water. I cry even more knowing others did
not receive equal assistance because of the color of their skin. I was
concerned that Spike Lee would put his spin on this tragedy, but he has
done the opposite. He allows citizens from all over the city, economic
and racial backgrounds to tell the real story. He gives a fair and
balanced perspective on how all levels of our government failed the
people of New Olreans and a good portion of the Gulf Region. I only
hope that Mr. Lee comes back in a few years to film another
documentary, "The City New Orleanians Re-Built".
Thank you Spike and all the people at 40 Acres and a Mule for doing what had to be done - recording the real story. I see heaps of Emmys.
Spike Lee's film When the Levees Broke: A Requim in Four acts is a haunting look at New Orleans during and after the devastation of Katrina. But this documentary is quick to point out that the disaster was not really from nature at all, it came directly from our own government, from the army core of engineers' poor construction of the Levees to the complete breakdown of the federal government and FEMA's lack buster response. This is not easy to watch as you see just how people's lives were devastated. It is angering, saddening, and also hopeful that New Orleans will be rebuilt and that there is progress made. I liked how it does not point blame in one direction. Everyone is at fault here though some more than others. Seeing the picture of Dick Chenney fly fishing days after the disaster and Condaliza Rice buying shoes in NYC were certainly angering but also watching the governor of Lousiana refuse help from our president are standouts. However the real star of this documentary are the people of New Orleans. They talk freely and angrily about the pain that they have gone through and show that the storm didn't end last August, its still going on there to this day. It is unbelievable to watch as these people wait 4 months and longer for FEMA trailers, and when they get them to find that there is no electricity. When asked what she could do to get electricity one woman suggests a blow-job. It just shows the complete lack of support our government gave to this state and to this city. This film will move you to tears many times and is hard to take but it is necessary to watch . It features a superb score by Terrance Blanchard whose own family was devastated by Katrina as shown on film. An excellent documentary.
Every American should see this documentary. Spike Lee has done an award winning film on the Katrina disaster. When America realizes that:the disaster was caused by the admitted poor construction of the Levees by the Army Corps of Engineers and the impact on the wetlands caused by the dredging of the outlet of the Mississippi river; and that 30 % of Americas oil and gas production comes off the Lousinana coastline, even though it is technically too far from the coast to generate direct revenue to the state of Louisiana; this disaster has Federal accountability. Whether or not the insurance companies have blame for calling the damage a result of flood, instead of the flood caused by the Hurricane (duh!), whatever is the cost of rebuilding the city should be born by the American taxpayer, or the appropriate budget reallocation. Spike Lee's documentary shows that both in human and logical terms, it's time for the American public to insist that our sister states that were damaged by Katrina be restored ASAP and both the levees and the oil/gas production be secured to a level appropriate with the risk. Thank god for the free press of our great nation.
Let me explain this in terms everyone can understand. This is not an issue about Republican or Democrat, Left or Right. This is about justice. When a Government that is responsible for it's people turns it back on an entire State for immoral reasons someone needs to be accountable. This documentary explains in detail what happens when a government any government is not held accountable. There are no glass houses. Heed it's warning. One day it could be you floating down main street. Or burning up from global warming gone mad. This film is terrifying in the sense that it wasn't filmed in a Hollywood studio with some lame like Bruce Willis saving the day and all is well. This is real. And if you can stomach it, watch it. Invite a friend to watch it. And demand accountability from the people that are supposed to work for all of us. What does it say, when the richest country in the world lets it's most weak, sickest, poorest, young and old rot in a major city for over 7days? Watch this documentary and you answer that question yourself.
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
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.
Spike Lee was certainly the right person to make this documentary. The
tidbits I watched unfold on the news as it was happening were
horrifying enough. To see the 2-hour story, with emotional and heated
commentary from diverse residents representing many communities, Mayor
Nagin, the CNN Newscaster,and more was devastating! It is hard to
digest the government's third-world response, as though New Orleans is
some unknown town, hidden and off the map.
I've wanted to believe that I am a citizen of one of the most powerful places in the world, jointly connected to and equally as important as any other citizen in America. This documentary was all too telling that Black people are still at the back of the bus - if on the bus at all.
Thank you for bringing this all too-telling piece of modern history to the fore-front of our annals.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am thankful that Spike Lee gave us a REAL glimpse at what REALLY
happened. I was truly saddened and heartbroken that this had not been
brought to light sooner, but grateful it is here to tell the true story
of what really happened in the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. I
cried through 90% of this documentary as I found it appalling how the
various pieces of government failed in so many ways to help the people
of New Orleans. The part that really bothered me most was when the
truth was revealed about how various government bodies attempted to
cover their own asses with the popular catch phrase of, "I was not
informed" or "I was misinformed." Especially when they showed video
clips of the various government bodies being notified days before
Katrina hit. I am appalled that politics was even a thought during this
crisis. I was further appalled to know that people were dying waiting
for Federal Aid, whose lives could have been saved. Instead people DIED
thanks to a government being too wrapped up in their own images and
money to save lives.
Thank you Spike Lee for showing us the TRUTH! I cannot wait to see part 2!
Spike Lee has made his most powerful work yet with "When The Levees Broke". It has only been one night and two hours, but this documentary has moved me in such a way. I lived to see this on television but nothing quite put me in the middle of this disaster than this documentary. In depth interviews with the mayor, governor and citizens of New Orleans and the Ninth Ward was so stripped down and raw, I couldn't do anything but weep. This is really the first motion picture or anything of that like to make me cry. I felt like I was there and experienced it. One thing that I applaud Spike for was keeping it real. Nothing was censored, which comes to no surprise because it's on HBO, but vivid portrayals of the environment such as dead bodies or backed up sewage, were shown and even when it wasn't you felt like you could see or smell it. The frustration of the people of New Orleans pierces your heart and you could do nothing but feel for them. In two hours, "When The Leeves Broke" taught me things and gave a lot of insight on the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. I eagerly await the final two hours.
an excellent documentary! keep up the good work, SPIKE LEE. we need more documentaries like this. to see hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath in the eyes of the people of new Orleans was both amazing and heart-wrenching. it's makes you wonder: 'what would i do if a disaster of that caliber ever affected myself and my community. it saddened me to see the segment in which a young lady was burying her child. i had to turn the channel because it was too much for me to watch. i hope formats such as this will be a learning tool for our future generation. GOD BLESS AND HELP THE PEOPLE OF NEW ORLEANS! i also want to say thanks to CNN news for an in(and truthful) coverage of the disaster. SPIKE LEE you sure put something on my mind!
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