FILM REVIEW: “When the Levees Broke”

From Willamette Week, 7/18/07:

ONE NIGHT ONLY, REVIVAL] At over four hours in length, When the Levees Broke is neither short nor easy to watch. With this HBO doc, presented here by the NW Film Center, Spike Lee chronicles the most infuriating and depressing domestic story of our times. The film is a pure, poetic and comprehensive re-telling of the catastrophic clusterfuck that was Hurricane Katrina—and a fine testament to the dogged tenacity of the New Orleans spirit. This is no Ken Burns-style PBS epic, where a know-it-all omniscient narrator speaks like God and gray-haired historians reflect on the significance of relatively ancient events. Instead, it’s a masterpiece of recorded living history. Through first-person interviews with dozens of survivors, eerily beautiful footage of the destruction and selections of the finest tunes the Big Easy has to offer, Lee painstakingly captures every aspect of the social catastrophe, from racial inequalities and discrimination to the effects of the massive population displacement, deep-seated political hypocrisy, the repeated neglect and incompetence of the Army Corps of Engineers, exploitation at the hands of the insurance industry and—most significantly—the loss of home and family thousands of people in New Orleans experienced. As much as the movie is a self-titled requiem, it’s also an inspiring call to action and activism, to start setting things in a new direction. This is one of Spike’s best movies, and an essential work of American art and history. Set aside an evening to see this film. Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave., 221-1156. 6:30 pm Saturday, July 21.

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