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When the Levees Broke - A Requiem In Four Acts

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An American Tragedy

  • Oct 12, 2008
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"When the Levees Broke"

An American Tragedy

Amos Lassen

Hurricanes Katrina changed many lives and ravaged a great American city. As I sat down to watch Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke", many images were still in my mind as I did not evacuate New Orleans until a full week and a day after the storm hit. I so wanted to be able to see what I did not have a chance to while without electricity and stranded on the fourth floor of my building. I watched with my mouth open as New Orleans was being washed away.
Lee's film is made up of four episodes--the coming storm, immediately after, adjusting and the return. Each is mind boggling to watch as the national government fumbles and New Orleanians suffer. Here was a nation that did not know what to do in the time of disaster. The movie broke my heart many times and over and over again. To see the frustration of the people and the ineptitude of the government is just something that is hard to describe.
Spike Lee comes across as the voice of reason and we listen and watch in horror. Lee looks at what happened during Katrina as a conspiracy and he shocks us time and again. He shows how the federal government failed and did so in the name of pure greed. Lee even implies that the levees were bombed so that the black population of the 9th ward of the city would leave and that white contractors would then move in and redevelop the area. Of course, Lee does show partiality to his own.
For those who did not experience Katrina this is a must see and Lee shows it all to us. It is not an easy movie to see but it is an important one.

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More When the Levees Broke - A Requ... reviews
review by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Before I go into the review of Spike Lee’s 4 hour documentary When the Levees Broke I need to explain a couple of things for the sake of full disclosure. First, since the election horror story of 2000, I have gotten nearly 0% of my news from television—I watched some coverage of September 11, but no more than 2 hours worth and I watched election results for a couple of hours last November because I was excited that a change was coming. The second thing I need to disclose is that I am …
About the reviewer
Amos Lassen ()
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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Director Spike Lee'sWhen the Levees Brokeis the definitive document of the unmitigated disaster that was, and is, Hurricane Katrina. It's also a contemporary manifestation of an ancient tradition: an oral history, told by the people who lived it, with no narration and only the occasional use of archival cable and broadcast news footage in addition to Lee's own film. And a grim tale it is, an "American tragedy" subtitled "a Requiem in Four Acts," each of them about an hour long ("Act V," appearing on the third of the set's three discs, is a lengthy epilogue with new material not included in the original HBO broadcast) and focusing almost exclusively on New Orleans, as opposed to the Gulf Coast region in general.

Act I sets the scene; as the hurricane nears the Crescent City, some residents leave town, while others stay behind, figuring they'll just ride the storm out (Mayor Ray Nagin's "mandatory evacuation" order rings fairly hollow, as there's no public transportation provided for the many who don't own vehicles and thus couldn't get out even if they wanted to). The real problems begin after Katrina makes landfall on August 29, 2005. Displaced New Orleaneans crowd into the Superdome, soon to become a living hell for those stuck there; the incredibly poorly engineered levees break, flooding some 80 percent of the city; and people start dying by the hundreds, victims of drowning, lack of food, water, ...

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Studio: HBO Home Video
DVD Release Date: December 19, 2006

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