Spike Lee was at the Venice Film Festival in Italy watching on television as Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans last August.
“I was just really mad and sad,” he said. “I said, ‘This is going to be a major moment in American history, and I want to do something about it.”’
The result is a four-hour documentary called “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” airing Aug. 21-22 on HBO. It shows how New Orleans survived Katrina against a backdrop of performances by Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard at the Superdome, the French Quarter and the levees.
“What I was really amazed by was the spirit of the people of New Orleans,” Lee said this week at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting.
“Another thing I found amazing was the humor. They’re profane. We wanted to record the raw feelings of these people. That’s what makes New Orleans the most unique city in America, and that’s tough for me to say, being from New York.”
Lee said it’s important to remember that similar disasters could happen anywhere in America.
“Volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods. It’s not just New Orleans,” he said. “We should be scared because if FEMA — you saw what they did. Pray to God you don’t have to depend on FEMA. This stuff affects all Americans.”