USA, 2006, 255 minutes
Wed, May 2 / 07:30 / Castro / AWAR02C
Fri, May 4 / 12:00 / SFMOMA / WHEN04S
Spike Lee’s epic documentary on the impact and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a transcendent prayer for salvation. Outraged by governmental neglect, Lee ruminates on familiar and surprising details of the tragedy with a heartfelt compassion that perhaps eclipses the emotional highs of his previous works. Lee starts with the basics—a bad storm heading through the gulf, New Orleans in its path like a deer in headlights, images of evacuations, the jam-packed Astrodome, emotionally wrenching relocations—and builds on the events with commentary by anguished relatives of the dead, stalwart New Orleans denizens, cultural heroes and lame-duck politicians. Hip-hop artist Kanye West forthrightly recounts his "George Bush doesn’t care about Black people" comment; an outraged Katrina survivor heckles Dick Cheney with a particularly choice turn of phrase; and longtime residents of the Big Easy are finally granted a safe space in which they can tell their stories of fear, loss and stubborn hope. Lee’s melody of images—a "Humanity" street sign bobbing in murky water, a woman wrapped tightly in an American flag, Black feet on a blistering rooftop—builds into an orchestral hymn that is perfectly accompanied by Terence Blanchard’s haunting score and plenty of authentic New Orleans jazz. Moving beyond race and class, Lee’s American epic is a great work of investigative reporting, a long, slow blues for humanity at its most beautiful and most flawed. In addition to this complete screening of Lee’s "requiem in four acts," Acts II and III only will screen as part of a program honoring Lee as this year’s recipient of the Film Society Directing Award, with Lee in attendance. See page 36 for complete details.
Acts II and III: 135 min.
Acts I-IV: 255 min.
Sponsored by San Francisco Chronicle / SFGate.com