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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST DOCUMENTRY EVER MADE?
Spike Lee's exploration of the physical, economic, political and social effects of Hurricane Katrina which hit the Gulf Coast, USA in 2005 and devastated the famous city of New Orleans is, in my opinion, the best documentary ever made, certainly the most affecting, powerfull and compelling that I have ever seen.

Lee allows the story to unfold in a simple and...
Published on 13 May 2008 by Peter Hurst

versus
0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars swindle
i ordered this twice. the first time one of the discs was unreadable. i had ordered from amazon on a regular basis, and never had a problem, so i didn't want to make a fuss about it, and ordered it again. Some might think i deserved what happened next, anyway i NEVER received the set, which is marked "delivered" on my amazon page.
save your money, buy...
Published 17 months ago by hervé-rouen


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST DOCUMENTRY EVER MADE?, 13 May 2008
By 
Peter Hurst "peter hurst" (wigan, england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Spike Lee's exploration of the physical, economic, political and social effects of Hurricane Katrina which hit the Gulf Coast, USA in 2005 and devastated the famous city of New Orleans is, in my opinion, the best documentary ever made, certainly the most affecting, powerfull and compelling that I have ever seen.

Lee allows the story to unfold in a simple and linear fashion, allowing his mixture of 'talking heads' to tell the story whilst news footage shows us what happened. He uses a variety of voices - male, female, young, old, black, white, working class, middle class, famous, unknown, articulate, blunt, professional, layman - to great dramatic and narrative effect and makes it plain:- Hurricane Katrina effected everybody in New Orleans, nobody escaped its wrath.

The cast of characters include the Mayor Of New Orleans, the Governor of Louisiana, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and, of course, the Bush White House, who unsurprisingly deigned it unneccessary to add their voice to the collective featured in the film. None of the major public figures involved emerge with much credit. Mayor Nagin is a man in deep and choppy waters (literally and figuratively speaking,) without a paddle and without a clue. Governor Blanco seems more concerned with passing the buck. FEMA is swamped in bureaucracy. Whilst George 'Dubya' is on holiday.

The central motif of the film is that Katrina was not just merely a natural disaster but also a man-made one. New Orleans had suffered hurricanes before, as recently as 1965 when Hurricane Betsy hit, it was therefore no secret to anyone that it would be at risk again. No more than it is a secret that California is at risk to earthquakes or New York to terrorism. Metereological experts had forewarned those in power of the necessity for action but nothing was done. The Levees were not fit for purpose and were not even fully built when Katrina hit some forty years after Betsy.

The film evoked memories of reading Cecil Woodham-Smith's magisterial 'The Great Hunger' about the Irish Potato famine in the 19th Century. In the book it is explained that the Potato Blight triggered the disaster but it was the attitudes of the English towards the Irish peasants and the slavish adherance to the principles of laissez-faire capitalism which served to perpetuate the famine, worsen the human scale of the tragedy and allowed the amount of deaths to swell into millions.

In similiar fashion it was clear that the Bush White House did not see the inhabitants of New Orleans as socially important - mainly black and poor - and subsequently action that needed to be taken at a Federal level immediately in the aftermath of Katrina was not taken and left one of the most famous and culturally significant cities in the United States of America to drown in its own filth. Katrina did not just wash away people's homes it also washed away the pretence that 'Compassionate Conservatism' existed as anything more than just a hallow electioneering slogan.

Documentary-making at it's best is simply storytelling and that is what Lee does through a range of voices in a way that is even-handed and lacking in Michael Moore-style polemical flourish and is all the more powerfull for it. To quote New Orlean native James Lee Burke "That was a storm with a greater impact than the bomb blast that struck Hiroshima and peeled the face off Southern Louisiana. One of the most beautiful cities in the Western Hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by the forces of nature."
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 19 Feb 2007
By 
O. Adams "Oz" (Lancaster) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
A film that had to be made, 'When the Levees Broke' is a demanding, wrenching viewing. Allowing the story of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath to tell itself, Spike Lee weaves interviews with a huge range of New Orleans residents, Hurricane experts and footage of Kanye West amongst others into a devasting, 4 hour narrative that takes your breath away. Where others may have delivered a piece of work heavy on sentimentality and drama, Lee allows the story to speak for itself, and your left with a damning critique of the U.S governemnt that involves race, ignorance, big business, conspiracy theories and the power of the human condition. It may be gruelling, but nothing on celluloid has ever gripped me more. Quite simply a masterpiece, Spike Lee has delivered a fitting tribute to those undeserving whilst pouring venom on those repsponsible for the tragic events. Superb.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, 8 May 2009
By 
L. Farley (Liverpool, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
This documentary by Spike Lee ranks up there with some of John Pilger's groundbreaking films of the 1970's and 80's. This differs somewhat in as much as it is 100% narrative driven and that narrative is pushed forward primarily by interviews of the displaced former residents of New Orleans.

Once Katrina shows her face in Act I a haunting, moving, but most of all deeply disturbing story develops that I, when watching, would prefer not to be true.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Amazing, 19 Oct 2011
This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
HBO have done it again with this amazing documentary about Hurricane katrina. Seeing the events unfold, the suffering and how it was dealt with was a real eye opener. Would recommended to anyone interested in Hurricane Katrina or to anyone who just enjoys a good documentary, you'll be gripped from the first 5 minutes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sad time for America, 22 Aug 2011
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This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
A well adjusted view of the disaster which beset the Gulf Coast and particularly in this film, that of New Orleans.

The documentary pulls no punches. It is factual and frank.

For me the arrival of General Honore likened to a black John Wayne, was the turning point in this sad and sorry event which George Bush and his administration didnt want to know about.

Having seen the film on TV, I want a souvenir of the honesty of the occasion. A keepsake for posterity.

From me a Five Star Film!!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking but essential, 21 Sep 2007
By 
O. Parker "opark_77" (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
This is not a typical Spike Lee joint. Off the back of his success with Inside Man Lee chose to helm a documentary about Hurricane Katrina. I have a longstanding aversion to television news coverage so I went into this knowing embarrassingly little about the events of the disaster.

I was greeted with an engaging talking heads piece with interludes of affecting, disturbing images of the aftermath of the maelstrom. The film comprehensively covers the event in a series of four acts. The length (4 hours) made it a two sitting affair for me but I was rarely bored.

Lee gathers a wide cast of interviewees from residents of New Orleans and the surrounding area up to the Governor of Louisiana herself. The film met well with my own politics and distaste for the Bush administration but I was still aware of a degree of bias. It would have been nice to hear comment from FEMA or someone else involved beyond the state level. I think any viewer would find it hard to support the American governments handling of the evacuation with the information given here.

Lee brings a few elements of his own style to the editing and the practice of shooting his subjects through picture frames is quirky. However, he keeps himself firmly behind the camera and this restraint allows his subjects stories full impact.

As a record of a large scale disaster the film is fantastic. I strongly recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about Katrina's effects.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUBTITLE INFO. PLEEEASE!!!, 4 Oct 2007
This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
I am not here to make a review but to protest against Amazon's lack/ignorance for the deaf and hard of hearing. I am almost considering setting web site for the purpose of this protest so others can join.

My frustration is caused by this: I am into watching DVDs (films and particularly documentaries). Being hard of hearing, I can only watch DVDs with English subtitles. I have come to this site numerous times in the past months to buy new DVDs (Tribe (BBC documentary), Battlefield series by Dan Snow and this item to name a few). None of these along with thousands of other items say they or they don't have subtitles, therefore, I either have to buy to test them or forget about watchiong them.

Is it too much to ask to put that simple piece of information on the page? At least for BIG Amazon to show respect and understanding for the deaf? Shame on you Amazon! shame on you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very long., 3 May 2014
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This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Very long and some sections are rather tedious, but they can be skipped for the more interesting parts of the narrative. If you're interested in hurricane Katrina or the Civil Rights Movement in America then this is definitely a must-see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and eye opening, 12 Feb 2014
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This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
I have always been into natural disasters and am always on the look out for good documentaries with proper interviews. This is an amazing look at what happened after Katrina hit. The interviews are extremely varied including all walks of life. Most people are the ones who survived and were in the middle of the entire thing. Its such a heart breaking story of how human beings can be treated when it gets to such a chaotic level.

This is a raw story and I am very glad that someone put the work in and put it out there for the public to see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars New Orleans - Heart Breaker, 25 Jun 2013
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This review is from: When The Levees Broke (HBO 3-Disc Set ) [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Your heart goes out to all those who suffered as a result of Katrina and leaves so many question unanswered - why oh why have authorities still not made the recources available to sort things ...talks cheap - these folk need action.
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