Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thoughts on Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke

Broadcast over two nights on HBO, Spike Lee's Hurricane Katrina documentary When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts ranks among the most powerful things I've ever seen on television.

Through home movies, photos, TV news footage, and interviews with everyone from hurricane survivors to the governor of Louisiana, Lee tells the story of the worst natural disaster in American history. Even though this documentary is over four hours long in total, you just can't take your eyes away from it. All the bases are covered here including the overwhelming human tragedy of the hurricane and storm surge, the anger and frustration of the survivors, the failure of government on all levels, as well as historical context.

Spike Lee makes himself pretty invisible for this film and that's a good thing. There is no narrator or anything like that. The people and the various images speak for themselves. There is no shying away from talking about anything. Urban myths about Hurricane Katrina such as reports of children being raped in the convention center are talked about and debunked. People like Governor Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin are criticized but also get the chance to explain themselves. While there is much talk about how the government messed up their reaction to Katrina, time is taken to acknowledge the excellent work done by the U.S. Coast Guard. White people and black people share their stories.

Overall, When The Levees Broke is an amazing and compelling film. I'm glad that it was shown across two nights (Acts I & II will leave you drained) but if you missed the premiere, I highly encourage you to watch the full film on Monday, August 29th on HBO. This is a work that needs to be seen and it will open your eyes about the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and its aftermath. If this doesn't win an award of some kind when the time comes, it would be a damn shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment