When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Director Spike Lee presents to us a simple but impacting story of a very complex and tragic event in this 2006 four-part documentary series: the gut-wrenching aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Through Lee’s skillful presentation of news clips, interviews, and an informative history of past hurricanes hitting this once festive city, we witness how the most powerful government of the most advanced country in the world failed to protect the mostly black population of New Orleans.

Lee interviews many of the victims, but also the Mayor, the Governor and other officials involved in the crisis. However, it’s the images that speak for themselves. The horror…the horror. After watching corpses floating on flooded neighborhoods, the survivors trying to make sense of it all, the reaction of prejudice to tragedy and human needs, the women and children navigating through this ordeal, it’s impossible not to be shaken and moved by the baffling scenes. Then when you see a very rare and striking picture: men crying…you realize that something is very wrong, that we’ve been living under a very false sense of security, an illusion, a pipe dream. The painful awakening to this reality is obvious in so many recent events and places in this country that makes you question all we’ve been told since childhood about America’s exceptionalism, “Christian” heart and original noble ideals.

You can’t help but conclude that after 9-11, this horrific event was treated with negligence and exploited by the same government responsible to protect its citizens. This outstanding documentary remains as a chilling record and historic requiem for America’s New Orleans.

See also directed by Spike Lee: BlacKkKlansman (2018), Miracle at St Anna (2008), 4 Little Girls (1997), Malcolm X (1992)

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