40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
You need a landmark film to describe a landmark event, and that’s just what director Spike Lee gave viewers with his remarkable 4-hour When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Told through the personal stories of survivors, the film paints a picture of the aftermath of Katrina that is both devastating and uplifting.
The film is Lee’s third collaboration with HBO. Interestingly, HBO sources note that the collaboration on this particular project was serendipitous, with the director contacting HBO Documentary president Sheila Nevins about the film just as she and supervising producer Jacqueline Glover were discussing the need for a ‘documentary of record’ about the event. Fair to say that’s exactly what they got.
The film has resonated with viewers – Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 100%, and IMDB gives it an 8.4 rating – as well as with readers. One of those realscreen polled noted: ‘When the Levees Broke was the film that had to be made, by the man most qualified to do it – and he showed remarkable restraint in doing so.’ Perhaps that’s the strength of the film: dramatic but not sensationalist; populist but not pontificating. It’s a shame that great works of art so often come from such human tragedies.