When The Levees Broke

Monday and Tuesday night, we watched Spike Lee’s new 4-hour documentary, When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts.


Originally intended to be two hours, Lee expanded the film into four, with each Act covering (roughly): Landfall, Flooding, Aftermath, and Recovery. Lee stays behind the camera, and the story plays out in first-person interviews and archival news footage.

If you weren’t angry before, you’ll be livid by the end of it….especially by the end of the final act, which shows that almost nothing has been done in the year since Katrina. They’re still finding bodies, Streets haven’t even been cleared of debris in some areas, FEMA is still a joke, and only 25% of the city’s population is back — the ones who were evacuated having been given one-way tickets to locations of FEMA’s choosing (regardless of where they had family).

Over and over again in the documentary people ask how does this happen in the world’s richest country? How does a government kill a city?

It’s absolutely chilling. Watch it.

The Media is sure to do year-after retrospectives as the month ends. They’ll probably talk about how “Katrina” did this to New Orleans….but the truth is that the city was wiped out by the Government. First, by the Army Corps of Engineers, who knowingly built sub-standard levees which didn’t hold (as has now been proven…quietly), and then by the Bush Administration which fiddled while the city drowned, and has done nothing since.

9 Replies to “When The Levees Broke”

  1. As much as I wanted to catch the documentary, it is still too painful for my fiancee to watch. He evacuated from New Orleans last year during the hurricane. his place survived the hurricane, but could not survive the flooding when the levees broke. he lived a few blocks from the 17th Ave. levee. All the news about FEMA giving $20,000 to victims is a joke. he got a mere $8000 for a lifetime of things, including an art studio. The guy next door who had a tv, computer, micorwave and mattress got $25,000. Add to that the neglegence of the Louisiana governor who would not allow the feds in at the early stages and you have a big mess.
    The question now before us will be hwo will the city stand anothe rhurricane city if even a samll hurricane hits it?

  2. We taped it for my father in law, who is back living in NO. I am sure it is a very powerful film. I do not plan to watch it because 1.time and 2. I am not emotionally equipped to handle it.

  3. I haven’t watched it yet, though I did tape it for my dad. Not sure I will watch it. I’ve been through some of the areas–I was back there in May. And I grew up down there. I still have friends I haven’t found yet.

  4. I watched it while I beaded. It was a clear testament to the travesty perpetrated on the residents of the entire Gulf Coast, but most particularly those who were victims of Katrina’s wrath in New Orleans.

    It is ludicrous that trailers are sitting in parking lots. It is heinous that houses were not actually searched for the dead. It is unforgivable that insurance companies are getting away with fucking people over wholesale after accepting policy premiums.

    There are not words to describe how watching this made me feel.

    Members of our government should be proscecuted over the handling of this experience…but wait, they’re immune…


  5. So, I’m curious, Gareth – do they cover Gen. Russell Honorie’s actions at all? He seemed like the only damn person involved who actually had his head screwed on straight.

  6. Oh hell yes — there’s an entire section on him, which really gives him the credit. Great footage of him barking orders to troops as well. “Put those goddamned weapons down, goddamn it! This is America!”

  7. I wasn’t able to watch it so if you know anyone who taped it let me know. I realise it will just piss me off, but I would love for my parents to watch it. They are the kinds of voters that need to see what their president is doing.

  8. Somehow I would bet this particular piece will be put out to DVD. I would also bet that it would be possible for me to tape it when it goes to HBO on Demand.


  9. Good. I was holding out for the dim possibility that Gen. Honorie wasn’t just a tool of the media or administration. Having seen him do briefings after Katrina, it seemed a lot like while he was relaying what the Pentagon and FEMA fed him, he wasn’t happy about what he pretty clearly felt was complete bullshit.

    I’m very, very glad to see that there’s at least *someone* involved with the whole damned mess who isn’t a complete tool. Chalk one up for Gen. Honorie, then.

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