When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
(HBO Home Video)
Spike Lee is primarily known for his groundbreaking work dealing with racial and social issues in the US. With a great deal of visionary films to his credit, his work as a documentary filmmaker is often overlooked. Like the haunting and disturbing 4 Little Girls, When the Levees Broke is an astounding film. Lee builds an all-encompassing doc that covers the build-up to the storm and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with cunning style and vision. Most people were glued to their sets during the crisis, but Lee goes many steps further than CNN—he interviews families, government officials, medical personnel and celebrated New Orleans jazz musicians. At the heart of the matter is the question of race relations and the government’s possible, but most probable, bias in dealing with the situation. The four acts are roughly an hour each and deal with a specific issue or event. When originally aired on HBO it was shown in two-hour segments over two nights, culminating in 256 minutes, making this a long-winded documentary. But regardless of length, this is an important film that critiques social and political relations in the most powerful country in the world and stands as a chronicle of how the US government let its citizens down when they needed it the most.