Film Reviews: Category 5 Cinema


| January / February 2007


When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

(HBO Video; on DVD)

Spike Lee knows what it means to miss New Orleans. As the director of this epic documentary about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Lee understands that the best way to capture the loss afflicting the storm-struck region is via the weary faces and shaken voices of its residents, including musicians and politicians. A monumental and moving opus, the four-hour work chronicles everything from the hurricane's impact to the levees' bursting to the harrowing accounts of survivors left waiting for rescue on empty lots where their homes once stood.

Combining emotional interviews with stunning photography, When the Levees Broke finds a people betrayed, broken, frustrated, and forgotten. Again and again, Lee shows images of citizens stranded on rooftops, desperately holding signs that cry "help." Mothers lose their daughters; sons lose their mothers; and chilling images of floating corpses, one after another, increasingly condemn those in charge.

Lee looks for those who were responsible for the botched response, laying blame higher up the chain of command. While Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco emerge largely unscathed and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown appears inept, the film reserves its real fury for the Army Corps of Engineers, Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff, and President Bush.

Layered with the mournful jazz compositions of New Orleans native Terence Blanchard, the film, true to its title, is a powerful requiem-not only for Katrina's victims and the city of New Orleans, but also for any rose-colored views we may have about racism and poverty in these United States.

-Anthony Kaufman






Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter flipboard


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265