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WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS


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Adrienne
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« on: January 30, 2007, 02:41:12 am »

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS
 
 

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

As the world watched in horror, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Like many who watched the unfolding drama on television news, director Spike Lee was shocked not only by the scale of the disaster, but by the slow, inept and disorganized response of the emergency and recovery effort. Lee was moved to document this modern American tragedy, a morality play witnessed by people all around the world. The result is WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS. The film is structured in four acts, each dealing with a different aspect of the events that preceded and followed Katrina's catastrophic passage through New Orleans. 

 
 
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Adrienne
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2007, 02:42:22 am »

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."

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE is Spike Lee's third feature-length collaboration with HBO, following 1998's "4 Little Girls," which was Oscar®-nominated in the Documentary Feature category, and 2002's "Jim Brown: All-American." Sam Pollard produces and edits the film. Sheila Nevins is executive producer; Jacqueline Glover is the supervising producer for HBO. Cliff Charles serves as cinematographer.

Lee contacted Sheila Nevins, president, HBO Documentary, with whom he had previously collaborated on "4 Little Girls." By coincidence, the call came as Nevins and Glover were discussing ideas for their own Katrina project. Nevins wanted to create the "documentary of record" about the disaster. For her, Lee's call came at the opportune time.

"It was pure serendipity," says Nevins. Lee was so intensely committed to his vision of the project that Nevins realized that he was the only director for the documentary. "Spike feels this in his gut: He brings his consciousness, his talent, and his passion to bear on the issues surrounding the project," she continues. "I don't know of anyone else who can do it."

Nevins describes Lee's approach as "down-to-earth reportage of how the disaster was treated on a local and federal level. Spike has access to people and information that would result in an encyclopedic look at the chronology of events, and the lack of action that followed."

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.

Lee uses key elements of New Orleans' cultural legacy to illustrate its history of surviving against the odds. Long before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and its citizens developed coping strategies for dealing with tragedy. Its aboveground cemeteries are not only practical, but evidence of a people used to the sight of death. The traditional jazz funerals - musical parades that mourn death, and then celebrate life - serve as testament to that fact.

Musician Wynton Marsalis considers music to be central to the everyday lives of New Orleaneans, saying, "The reason music came from us is we had a lot of ceremonies that required music. We have produced great musicians in every type of form you can think of - jazz, blues. It's all a part of people's everyday lives."

Fellow New Orleans native and jazz musician Terence Blanchard, a musician and composer on several of Lee's films, including WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE, believes artists will find inspiration from Katrina. "Out of this experience there's going to come some amazing music, because the musical culture of this city has never been driven by anything other than pure honesty and pure passion," he notes. "And with the artists that are from this city, there's going to be some amazing things that's going to flourish as a result of this."

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 Award® 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.

Sam Pollard's (producer/supervising editor) first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton's "Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crosswords," which brought him an Emmy®. He later served as co-executive producer and producer of Hampton's documentary series "I'll Make Me a World: Stories of African- American Artists and Community," winning a George Foster Peabody Award. He also received a Peabody as one of the producers on the PBS series "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow."

Between 1990 and 2000, Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee's films, including "Mo' Better Blues," "Jungle Fever," "Girl 6," "Clockers" and "Bamboozled." In addition, Pollard and Lee co-produced the feature-length HBO documentary "4 Little Girls," which was nominated for an Academy Award®, and HBO's "Jim Brown All-American." His other credits include "3-2-1-Contact," for which he received two Emmys®, "Fires in the Mirror," directed by George Wolfe and starring Anna Deveare Smith, and "Goin' Back to T-Town."

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.

   http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/whentheleveesbroke/synopsis.html
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"In a monarchy, the king is law, in a democracy, the law is king."
-Thomas Paine
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