When the Levees Broke
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Academy Award-nominated director Spike Lee (the guiding force behind the critically acclaimed documentary 4 Little Girls) turns to nonfiction filmmaking once again with the heart-wrenching marathon work When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, produced by Lee's Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks and originally screened on HBO. In four "acts" of approximately one hour each, Lee examines the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the late summer of 2005 and the incorrigible response to the catastrophe from U.S. government agencies. The filmmaker then evaluates the… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"The same didactic instincts that sometimes mar Lee's fictional filmmaking serve him well as a documentarian and eulogist."
‑ , Globe and Mail
"When the Levees Broke is like the New Orleans jazz funeral -- a dirge on the way to the cemetery, an up-tempo parade in the deceased's honor on the bittersweet walk back home."
‑ Paul Brownfield, Los Angeles Times
"Spike Lee's masterful and disturbing Katrina docu."
‑ Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
"...provides an extraordinarily detailed look at this event, and its worth is sure to be felt increasingly as the memories fade and the anger softens with time and distance."
‑ Jason Gorber, Film Scouts
"In this golden era of documentary filmmaking, When the Levess Broke is among the very best films of the past year, fiction and non-fiction alike."
‑ Dan Jardine, Cinemania
"Surely the most magnificent and large-souled record of a great American tragedy ever put on film."
‑ David Denby, New Yorker
"An exhaustive, ruminative, angry and even occasionally gallows-humorous account of the strange domino effect of tragedy compounding incompetence compounding tragedy that dealt a critical blow to one of America's great cities."
‑ Robert Abele, L.A. Weekly
"There's no way to truly distill this triumph into a handful of words. The ghosts of so many color the corners of a mournful poem and a powerful prayer that's pissed off, hopeful, practical, empathetic and one of the most important documentaries ever made."
‑ Nick Rogers, Suite101.com
"Despite capturing many heartbreaking aspects of the disaster, this is essentially an overambitious mess which ultimately fails to convey effectively the scale or scope of the ongoing tragedy."
‑ Kam Williams, One People's Project
"...what should have been a searing, powerful documentary generally comes off as a rough cut that's desperately in need of some judicious editing."
‑ David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews
"What breaks your heart is the film's accumulated firsthand stories of New Orleans residents who lost everything in the flood after Hurricane Katrina, and the dismaying conclusion that a year after the disaster, the broken city has been largely abandoned."
‑ Stephen Holden, New York Times
"Do the flaws diminish Levees? To a degree. But the story Lee tells is so powerful, so important, that the lapses aren't a reason not to pay heed to what this passionate film has to say."
‑ Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News
"Arguably Lee's best effort since Do the Right Thing."
‑ Stan Hall, Oregonian
"It's the depth and weight of Freeman Jr's or Michael Wright's or Phyllis Leblanc's words, the anger and sadness behind them, that surge forth here, sinking the political elite's murderously empty promises."
‑ Brian Gibson, Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
"It's an honest, fair and unflinching look at one of the greatest, and saddest, natural disasters to hit our shores."
‑ Don R. Lewis, Film Threat
More reviews for When the Levees Broke on Rotten Tomatoes