When the levees broke

When the levees broke

Subtitled A requiem in four acts, this excellent Spike Lee documentary chronicles the tragedy of New Orleans after being hit by hurricane Katrina. Lee shows you what happened during the storm and afterwards, how the federal government took way too much time to respond, and how people are still finding their way back, not everybody wanting to return, and some not having the means to do so. The images of complete destruction are haunting, and on a much larger scale than what most news channels showed. Many of the survivors who went back to the city now live in not very sturdy trailers, for which they had to wait several months even though the trailers were parked and waiting. The reconstruction efforts are very slow, some people got back to their houses to find nothing but rubble or even bodies—even though the houses had supposedly been inspected and found `clean.’ It is clear that nobody was prepared for a disaster of this magnitude, but it is incredible that so little was done by the people in power who had the possibility to avoid the appalling aftermath.

You see a few courageous heroes who stayed to help or even went to the city and helped save lives when the streets were flooded and people were drowning. You also get to see unapologetic racism and classism playing a big factor in the way things went. Cops blocking bridges so people cannot get out, for example. Or Barbara Bush. Or insurance companies making ridiculous claims to avoid paying what they rightfully owe. And then there is politics and the blame game and people still suffering and waiting for help. At the end, you see those who have returned and how they are working to save the spirit of the city.

Moving and sad, this is a great example of what documentaries should be like, and a frightening warning to those who still believe the government is of and for the people.  


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