If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don't Rise Spike Lee

If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don't Rise Spike Lee

Spike Lee's greatest film remains 1989's Do the Right Thing, a complex, dense, gloriously photographed portrait of a neighbourhood in turmoil, where an acute tension burbles underneath the everyday beauty, where everyone is angry but no one has solutions. All of which could also describe this, his second of two four-hour documentaries about post-Katrina New Orleans. The first, When the Levee Breaks, came out in 2006 and captured the righteous rage and raw wounds of the city a year after the flood. If God is Willing is more measured ― the tragic tales have more to do with systemic neglect and the inadequacy of bureaucracy to respond to people's need; it's not as compelling as a horror story, but it's just as important and more relevant to America as a whole. In the wake of Katrina, public housing was razed, public education was under threat, the city's major hospital was relocated, the police force faced charges of brutality, rents quadrupled ― and then the BP oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico. Lee had just wrapped up filming when the spill happened ― while initially this film was going to end with the triumphant Super Bowl win of the New Orleans Saints in February 2010, he chose instead to open with the win and close with a new round of indignation during the summer of the spill (which must have been a rush job, as the film aired on HBO in August 2010, in time for the fifth anniversary of the flood). The hour of deleted scenes suggests that Lee had originally intended a major thrust of the film to be comparisons to the Haitian earthquake ― in the final version, it's an odd tangent that's left dangling. Lee finds beauty, humanity and even a rare bit of hope; the film's most unlikely hero is Brad Pitt, who funded affordable, energy-independent, flood-resistant housing in the neglected Lower Ninth Ward, an example of one rich man facilitating what three levels of government could not, and one of many examples of individuals accomplishing more than the state. The viewer is left to form their own opinion of charter schools or the mayorship of Ray Nagin, and no one seems to agree on whether the federal government should have banned offshore drilling in the wake of the spill or who did what fast enough. Some flood victims have successfully relocated to Texas; some tried to leave and had to return. Some saw the demolition of public housing units as a golden opportunity to clean up a slum and start anew; some saw the entire exercise as opportunistic ethnic cleansing. Even Michael Brown (the much-maligned head of FEMA during Katrina) is given an opportunity to defend himself. New Orleans was one of the most complex city cultures before the flood and it's even more so now: in black, in white and several dozen shades of grey. Lee's greatest weakness in at least the last decade has been his scripts, but this story, needless to say, writes itself, bringing out the best in him as a concerned citizen and a filmmaker. (Warner)