Spike Lee's documentary

Hope you got to see parts one and two of Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts on HBO last night. Parts three and four will air tonight at 9 PM. The entire four-part documentary will air again on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 8 PM.

Although you might expect Spike Lee to have a radical take on it, the documentary is a mostly straight-ahead and artfully produced accounting of what happened to New Orleans and what the people there have to say about it.

There are interviews with politicians and celebrities, but the most compelling oral histories are those of ordinary people. The stories of Times-Picayune journalists, trained in observation and reporting yet overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster, are also fascinating. It is heartbreaking at times, infuriating at others.

The documentary also looks at the failures of political leadership during the initial response. Presumably, parts three and four will explore this aspect of the recovery. Some defenders of the current administration will probably think the documentary sensationalizes these aspects of our government's response. Sadly, the facts speak for themselves. It's hard to further sensationalize the already shocking and scandalous reality of the situation.

But the real story is the effect on the lives of the people of New Orleans during and after the storm. The clips of news coverage used in the film will be familiar to those who have been following the story. For others who only get bits and pieces from the evening news, seeing it all at once could be overwhelming. Seeing the totality of the devastation put in context by the voices of the people who lived through it (and are still struggling to survive) is a powerful and moving experience for anyone. Everyone in America should see this documentary.