Spike Lee Turns Katrina Film into Political Hackery

August 24th, 2006 4:59 PM

Film director Spike Lee could have created a stirring tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina who lost everything. Instead, his documentary "When the Levees Broke" featured Republican/Bush-bashing, conspiracy-mongering, and a disregard for victims of other races

Jeff Crouere at Ringside Politics reviewed the movie.

Spike Lee focused primarily on the Lower Ninth Ward and the African-American victims of Katrina. So, viewers were left with the clear indication that the New Orleans area is almost solely comprised of African-Americans and the victims of Katrina were almost all African-American. However, the metropolitan area of New Orleans was 63% white prior to Katrina and 47% of the storm fatalities were not African-Americans, and of that group the vast majority was white.

Katrina was an equal opportunity destroyer and the flood waters did not discriminate. Incredibly, Lee found no time to investigate the damage in Old Metairie or Lakeview, two primarily white areas that were decimated. Was that just an oversight or an example of racial discrimination? Lee also completely bypassed the devastated Mississippi Gulf Coast, another primarily white region, which bore the brunt of the high winds and the storm surge of Katrina...

Lee interviewed a number of politicians, academicians, and pastors who lived outside of New Orleans, and showed very little understanding of real New Orleans. Viewers were left with the distinct impression that there are horrible race relations in New Orleans, when in fact the city enjoys more integration and better race relations that most American cities. Besides the Mardi Gras Indians and passing references to the city’s food and culture, the many wonderful attributes of New Orleans were missed by Lee, who obviously was pursuing an agenda in his documentary.

One item on Lee’s agenda was to focus on the preposterous charge that the levees were blown up after Katrina. Lee interviewed several Lower Ninth Ward residents who claimed they heard explosions and expressed their opinion that “they blew up the levees.” Yet, Lee did not examine some important questions such as who, how, why, when, with what? Are viewers to believe that during the height of a monster hurricane government officials went out to the levees with sticks of dynamite to blow them up? Give me a break. It did not happen and there is not one scintilla of evidence that any levees were purposely destroyed. The loud explosions heard by area residents can easily be explained by the huge super tanker of a barge that busted through the flood walls on its way to its final resting place in an adjacent neighborhood....

While Lee focused on the tragedy and the poor federal response, he neglected to mention all of the billions that have been allocated by Congress, and for months idling in the State Government treasury. Lee pointed plenty of fingers at the Army Corps of Engineers, but he totally neglected the responsibility of the Orleans Parish Levee Board for maintenance of the levees. While Lee blasted President Bush throughout the documentary, he exonerated the man who exemplified poor leadership, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Is it because Nagin is an African-American or is it because he is a Democrat? Lee overlooked almost all Republican office holders in his documentary. He could have interviewed LA State Senator Walter Boasso (R-Arabi), who used his own boat to rescue stranded people in his beloved St. Bernard Parish in the hours after Katrina or U.S. Congressman Bobby Jindal (R-Kenner) who has been a tireless advocate for increased oil and gas royalties for Louisiana. Instead, Lee focused on Democratic elected officials and angry activists.