21 August 2006

"When the Levees Broke"

Seymour D. Fair points out that there is a potentially well-done documentary on Katrina out there on LPB right now. However, the rest of the country probably won't see it. I probably won't, living in Mid-America, unless my local public broadcasting affiliate picks it up.

But never fear. The "mainstream" media can tell the story instead for the rest of us. The rest of us can see Spike Lee's new documentary about Katrina.

Now look, Spike. I appreciate that you were "moved" by what happened to New Orleans. I even like some of your films. But I'm sorry if I'm not sure that your film will help the city's cause. There are many problems I have with your documentary.

1. First, you are a New Yorker. We can make our own history without you carpetbaggers coming down and telling us the story that needs to be told. Would it have been acceptable if a New Orleanian was given the first chance to make a documentary about 9/11?

2. The network airing your documentary, HBO, wisely decided to air the first half of your documentary opposite a nationally-televised New Orleans Saints football game.

3. The people who really need to see this documentary and see what really happened (the "Red States" or "Jesusland") have a built-in excuse not to watch. They'll say "It's made by Spike Lee. It probably has a 'black agenda.'" So the people who should be helping us will be turned off even more.

4. Apparently the film does have a "black agenda." I'm not trying to say that African-Americans weren't catastrophically affected by Katrina. I'm just saying that concentrating on that story or by trying to say that "we were affected more than you were" will only further divide a community that needs to unite if it wants to rebuild properly.

5. The film apparently also spends a lot of time pushing the theory that "they blew up the levees." Look, I'm not ignoring history. And I wouldn't put it past the government to do things like this. But when you have more evidence than "It sounded like an explosion, but I didn't see it," then we'll talk. And, by the way, I'm thinking that millions of gallons of water crashing through a levee would sound like an explosion. I'm just saying.

6. It further feeds the national perception that New Orleans was the only victim of Katrina. Just like New York City was the only victim of 9/11. The people of Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, Slidell and the Mississippi Gulf Coast still aren't getting their stories told (not to mention the Rita victims). I don't blame New Orleanians for this. I blame the media, who need to make a simpler, more poignant story that the average person can understand. Of course, telling the story outside of New Orleans would also force Spike Lee to throw away his "the response was poor because all the victims were black" theory. But that's another story.

7. Spike Lee apparently worked with Douglas Brinkley on the documentary. As many of you recall, "The Great Deluge" created a lot of controversy when some people accused it of having a political agenda. Again, the connection will turn off a lot of people. By the way, I am not a Nagin supporter by any means. And I have read more than half of "The Great Deluge." And while I agree that Nagin was an idiot before, during and after the response, Brinkley does have a tendency to overstate the point (while simultaneously giving Blanco and Landrieu the "at least they tried" excuse).

But, with that all being said. I hope to catch the documentary when HBO re-airs it. I'll give it a chance, in spite of my reservations. I won't be one of those people who says it's crap and never watch it. I'll be as open-minded as possible.

But I'd also like to remind the people at HBO, MSNBC, CNN, The Weather Channel, The History Channel, and anyone else interested in telling our story of one thing: We can tell our own story just as well as some Hollywood or New York filmmaker.

EDITOR'S NOTE (Seymour D. Fair): The documentary will air on PBS nationally on 7 September 2006 at 8pm Central Time. Set that TIVO, Mr. Dar Dar.

WRITER'S POST-SCRIPT (Fitch): The Wet Bank Guide has a great commentary on the same topic. It's not about race. It's about levees.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Spike Lee, When The Levees Broke, Documentary


At August 21, 2006 2:41 PM, Blogger Ray in New Orleans said...

I don't get why so many people are lining up to bash Spike Lee based on the movie they *expect* him to make, without having actually seen it yet themselves.

The one person I know who has actually seen it liked it:


At August 21, 2006 2:52 PM, Blogger Seymour D. Fair said...

I for one look forward to seeing it--although I am sure much of it will be painful to watch . . .

At August 21, 2006 2:58 PM, Blogger Ray Mikell said...

When Spike's "Do the Right Thing" came out, "Primary Colors" author Joe Klein and others went on about how it was irresponsible of him to end the movie as he did, given that the scene could wspark riots at theaters and whatnot. It NEVER happened. People were then, and still are, more than eager to give Spike a hard time about everything under the sun--which is not to say that doesn't give critics ammunition from time to time, but he's a talented, world-class filmmaker who shouldn't be easily discounted.

I haven't seen the movie. But having seen "Three Little Girls" and being impressed with its maturity, I want to see the HBO doc. (And most HBO subscribers get the multiple showing package now, so they don't have to watch the film during a Saints game.)

At August 21, 2006 11:35 PM, Blogger Zihuatanejo said...

How many of us are aware of this situation and what it means? What can native New Orleanians and South Louisianans do about this, to help swing the vote our way?
But not everyone takes issue with the status quo. Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., have proposed sham reforms to give the appearance of responding to growing public unease over the Corps' performance in New Orleans and elsewhere. For instance, they would allow the Corps to appoint its own "independent" review panel, and deny requests for independent reviews, even if demanded by a governor or head of a federal agency.

Senators Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have proposed reforms to fix these problems. Corps projects will be prioritized based on clear standards that put the public interest first.

Has someone organized a campaign to send letters, phone calls and emails to the senators involved and all of our friends across the country? What about asking for help? Are there not a lot of organizations that would like to get involved with this effort? Do we have any leaders in our community that bring groups together, like green peace and others to help start an awareness campaign on this imprtant issue?

At August 26, 2006 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is why I decided to check out the Progresive party. This was not easy for someone who was raised as a Democrat.
I know the Progressives would welcome you with open arms.

Sometimes people ask me, "How could you turn your back on your Democratic roots?" It's a good question.

I have nothing against Democrats. As you now know, I used to be one. Most Democrats are good, hard-working, well-intentioned people. In many cases, including in mine and my wife's, it has been a family tradition to vote for Democrats. Our parents and grandparents voted for Democrats for reasons that were good and noble ... in the past.

THE CURRENT wave of favoritism and corruption is not due to something being wrong with people like us raised as Democrats, but to one group and one party's having had absolute control for too many years.

Too many officials and city appointees did not have to work hard to get where they are now. They consider public service their right, not a privilege. Without the checks and balances of another point of view, they have become arrogant, self-serving and corrupt.

Single-party rule is now just a big problem here. We need to think about reviewing laws and policies to ensure that local whistle-blowers are fully protected and that potential corruption is identified early. Let's provide anonymous counsel to those unsure if superiors are asking them to bend the law. And lets eliminate any loophole that inadvertently protects wrongdoers.

History teaches that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The current abuse of power in Somerville is not random. It is the predictable result of one-party or gourp domination. We need competition in the political arena, and we need it now.
MY WIFE'S grandfather was a member of the a Regimental Combat Team and lifelong member of a local Union.

Now, her grandmother is embarrassed by government corruption. She cannot understand how the behavior of so many public officials -- all Democrats -- can be so at odds with her beliefs and core values, which she always assumed were those of a Democrat.

You don't have to be a member of any particular political party to want honesty in government, a stronger economy, better schools, an equitable public transportation system and a healthy environment. These are everybody's goals.

Republicans, Porgressives, and Democrats may differ over how best to reach them, but we all want the best for New Orleans.

Andy Dufresne


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