I finally got around to seeing "When the Levees Broke" Spike Lee's epic four-hour documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the incredible stories of ordinary New Orleanians who lived through the flood. It's perhaps Lee's finest piece of work, because for most of the film he simply turns on the camera, zooms in tight, and let's the victims speak.
The movie left me angry at the blind stupidity and complicity of the government. At the federal government that allowed these half-ass levees to be built in the first place, knowing that a Category 3 hurricane would breach them. At FEMA, that took weeks to get their shit together enough to formulate an inadequate response to the disaster. At the Bush administration's slow response to the tragedy that displaced a million people to all corners of the United States.
The film also inspired me with the resilience of the human spirit, and the creative ways that people found to survive and to help their neighbors along the way. The stories of the survivors alternate between raw terror, moral outrage, and surprising humor even in the darkest hours. And the elegaic music by Katrina survivor and jazz musician Terence Blanchard creates a hauntingly beautiful backdrop to the scenes and interviews.
Lee does an amazing job of portraying the unique character of New Orleans and why it's so important to rebuild this great city, and to restore the homes and neighborhoods of all of its inhabitants — even in the 9th Ward.