This intimate, heart-rending portrait of New Orleans in the wake of the destruction tells the heartbreaking personal stories of those who endured this harrowing ordeal and survived to tell the tale of misery, despair and triumph.
The film also looks at a community that has been through hell and back, surviving death, devastation and disease at every turn. Yet, somehow, amidst the ruins, the people of New Orleans are finding new hope and strength as the city rises from the ashes, buoyed by their own resilience and a rich cultural legacy.
"New Orleans is fighting for its life," says Lee. "These are not people who will disappear quietly - they're accustomed to hardship and slights, and they'll fight for New Orleans. This film will showcase the struggle for New Orleans by focusing on the profound loss, as well as the indomitable spirit of New Orleaneans."
Three months after Katrina struck, Lee, cameraman Cliff Charles and a small crew made the first of eight trips to New Orleans to conduct interviews and shoot footage for the film. With so many people affected, Lee had a wide range of subjects and opinions to choose from. "Spike wanted to offer multiple points of view," says his longtime editor, Sam Pollard. "He needed to represent the voices from the community, the different levels of government, activists and the celebrity element to provide a balanced take on the issues facing New Orleans."
Lee and his team selected close to 100 people from diverse backgrounds and representing a wide range of opinions to interview, including Governor Kathleen Blanco; Mayor Ray Nagin; residents Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, Kimberly Polk, Shelton "Shakespeare" Alexander and Rev. Williams; activists Al Sharpton and Harry Belafonte; CNN's Soledad O'Brien; and musicians Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Kanye West.
Spike Lee (director/producer) is widely regarded as today's premier African-American filmmaker. His recent critical and box-office successes have included "Inside Man," "She Hate Me," "25th Hour," "The Original Kings of Comedy," "Bamboozled" and "Summer of Sam." Lee's films "Girl 6," "Get on the Bus," "Do the Right Thing" and "Clockers" display his ability to showcase a series of outspoken and provocative socio-political critiques that challenge cultural assumptions not only about race, but also class and gender identity. His debut film, the independently produced comedy "She's Gotta Have It," earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film festival in 1986. His second feature, the hit "School Daze," helped launch the careers of several young black actors. Lee's timely 1989 film "Do the Right Thing" garnered an Academy AwardŽ nomination for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film & Director awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Lee's "Jungle Fever," "Mo' Better Blues," "Clockers" and "Crooklyn" were also critically well received. He founded 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, which is based in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.
WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS is a Spike Lee Film and a 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks Production. Directed and produced by Spike Lee; producer and supervising editor, Sam Pollard; cinematography, Cliff Charles; editors, Geta Gandbhir and Nancy Novack; composer, Terence Blanchard; line producer, Butch Robinson. For HBO: supervising producer, Jacqueline Glover; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.