Four years ago, Spike Lee’s documentary cameras captured the struggle of the residents of New Orleans who were dealing with the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts aired on HBO in 2006, and won three Emmy Awards and a Peabody.
Lee headed back to New Orleans with his cameras earlier this year, hoping to capture the city in the midst of rebuilding and triumph. What he ended up with is If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise, which not only examines how the city’s residents are still suffering in the wake of the hurricane, but also their grappling with a second disaster: the BP oil spill. The first part of the documentary aired on HBO on Monday; the final two hours premieres tonight. Here’s some of Salon‘s glowing review:
The people telling the story in this documentary are many of the same people whose names appear in the paper. Some are policy wonks; others, activists or artists; but nearly all are fervent New Orleanians. Some of them speak in a strongly held hyperbole that hints at madness or mania, both about the good and the bad here. There are angry words, never precisely defined, about “the powers that be” and their efforts at “ethnic cleansing” on the one hand, and on the other, references to the Saints’ Super Bowl win that suggest a local belief that the victory was an act of God, as if New Orleans, like the long-suffering Job, had been rewarded for its faith. This is the bipolar parlance of life here, stemming from the widely held belief that the city is vastly better than, worse than, and not really a part of the rest of the country.