Monday, August 23, 2010
SPIKE LEE RETURNS TO NEW ORLEANS FIVE YEARS AFTER KATRINA FOR IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON'T RISE, DEBUTING AUG. 23 AND 24, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO
HBO Press Release
Five years after Hurricane Katrina, director Spike Lee returns to New Orleans to see how the ambitious plans to reinvent the Crescent City are playing out in the all-new, four-hour documentary IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON'T RISE. He finds a patchwork of hope and heartache in a story that is book-ended by a pair of momentous events - the historic 2010 Super Bowl victory and the disastrous British Petroleum oil spill - that changed the history of America's most unique city once again.
The film debuts in two parts on MONDAY, AUG. 23 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) and TUESDAY, AUG. 24 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), exclusively on HBO.
HBO playdates for both parts (presented back-to-back): Aug. 27 (7:00 p.m.), 29 (3:00 p.m.) and 31 (9:00 a.m.), and Sept. 4 (11:00 a.m.) and 8 (3:00 p.m.)
Other HBO playdate for Part 1: Sept. 13 (4:10 a.m.)
Other HBO playdate for Part 2: Sept. 14 (4:45 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates for both parts (presented back-to-back): Aug. 25 (8:00 p.m.) and Sept. 3 (4:00 p.m.), 12 (2:00 p.m.), 14 (1:00 p.m.), 22 (8:00 a.m.), 27 (1:55 a.m.) and 30 (11:00 p.m.)
IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON'T RISE continues the story of the rebirth of the Big Easy, begun in Lee's epic, Emmy(R)- and Peabody-winning 2006 documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts." Alongside the city's storied ability to celebrate life with unmatchable ebullience, Lee documents the successes and failures in the ongoing efforts to restore housing, healthcare, education, economic growth and law and order to a battered but unbowed community.
"We knew when we finished the first film that the story wasn't over," says Lee. "It was clear it would take a long time for the city to get back on its feet."
Lee and his crew arrived in New Orleans in Feb. 2010 during a new wave of optimism, led by the Who Dat Nation, the community of passionate fans of the NFL champion New Orleans Saints football team. "The mood in New Orleans was great when we got there," Lee recalls. "They'd just won a Super Bowl. They had a new mayor and people's spirits were high."
New Orleanians were also encouraged by a series of legal victories that promised accountability for some of the devastating damage done to their homes by massive flooding during and after the storm. Notably, in Nov. 2009, a federal district court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers was culpably negligent for poor maintenance of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO), a major navigation channel, which led to some of the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina. The ruling paved the way for long-awaited financial restitution.
Amidst the ambitious plans to reinvent the city, Lee also uncovered a deep undercurrent of mistrust. Many residents say that recovery efforts mask an effort to transform the city famous for letting the good times roll into an "economic engine" that will benefit only an elite few.
A lack of affordable housing is one of several serious ongoing problems faced by the city's poor, especially the primarily African-American residents of the devastated Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard's Parish. The four large public housing developments have been shuttered, and rents have soared, with the average fair-market value of an apartment rising from $578 in 2005 to $881 in 2009. Only 38 percent of the private homes destroyed in the hurricane have been rebuilt.
"Some parts of the city are rebuilt," Lee notes. "But a lot of houses in those areas are in the same condition they were five years ago."
In many cases, private efforts are stepping into the void. Significant advances are being made by nonprofit reconstruction efforts like Make It Right, spearheaded by actor Brad Pitt, who has committed to restoring homeowners by building affordable "green," storm-resistant new homes in the Lower Ninth Ward.