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When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts 

An examination of the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

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2007   2006  
Won 3 Primetime Emmys. Another 5 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »




Series cast summary:
Darleen Asevedo Darleen Asevedo ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Jay Asevedo Jay Asevedo ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Shelton Shakespear Alexander Shelton Shakespear Alexander ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Lee Arnold Lee Arnold ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Gralen Bryant Banks ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
John Barry John Barry ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Robert Bea Robert Bea ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Harry Belafonte ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Wilhelmina Blanchard Wilhelmina Blanchard ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Terence Blanchard ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Kathleen Blanco Kathleen Blanco ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Douglas Brinkley ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Joseph Bruno Joseph Bruno ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Karen Carter Karen Carter ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Louis Cataldie Louis Cataldie ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Judith Morgan Judith Morgan ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Cheryl Livaudais Cheryl Livaudais ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Will Chittenden Will Chittenden ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Eddie Compass Eddie Compass ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Harry Cook Harry Cook ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Sarah Dean Sarah Dean ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Petri Laurimaa Petri Laurimaa ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Emil Dumesnil Emil Dumesnil ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Michael Eric Dyson Michael Eric Dyson ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Felton Earls Felton Earls ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Paris Ervin Paris Ervin ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Sylvester Francis Sylvester Francis ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Herbert Freeman Jr. Herbert Freeman Jr. ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Dale Girard ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Louella P. Givens Louella P. Givens ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Anita Gupta Anita Gupta ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Glenn Hall Glenn Hall ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Josephine Butler ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Donald Harrison ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Darnell Herrington Darnell Herrington ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Corey Hebert Corey Hebert ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Damon Hewitt Damon Hewitt ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Freddie Hicks Freddie Hicks ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Justin Hite Justin Hite ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Fred Johnson Fred Johnson ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Michael Katz Michael Katz ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Michael Knight Michael Knight ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Mitch Landrieu Mitch Landrieu ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Phyllis Montana LeBlanc ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Trymaine Lee Trymaine Lee ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Brendan Loy Brendan Loy ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Calvin Mackie Calvin Mackie ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Ben Marble Ben Marble ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Wynton Marsalis ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Kevin A. Martin Kevin A. Martin ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Hassan Mashriqui Hassan Mashriqui ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Audrey Mason Audrey Mason ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Betty McHale Betty McHale ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Charles McHale Charles McHale ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
David Meeks David Meeks ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Joseph Melancon Joseph Melancon ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Gina Montana ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Henry Morgan Henry Morgan ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Marc H. Morial Marc H. Morial ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell Cynthia Hedge-Morrell ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Arthur Morrell Arthur Morrell ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Joycelynn Moses Joycelynn Moses ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Anthony Dunn Anthony Dunn ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Ray Nagin Ray Nagin ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Linda Novak Linda Novak ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Soledad O'Brien ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Sean Penn ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Bennie Pete Bennie Pete ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Wendell Pierce ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Kimberly Polk Kimberly Polk ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
James Pullings Jr. James Pullings Jr. ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Garland Robinette Garland Robinette ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Robert Rocque Robert Rocque ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Junior Rodriguez Junior Rodriguez ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Daina Saulny Daina Saulny ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Michael Scott Schlacter Michael Scott Schlacter ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Jeffrey David Schultz Jeffrey David Schultz ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Jay Scully Jay Scully ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Mike Seelig Mike Seelig ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Lewis Setliff III Lewis Setliff III ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Al Sharpton ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Brian Thevenot Brian Thevenot ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Charley Varley Charley Varley ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Ivor Van Heerden Ivor Van Heerden ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Elder William Walker Jr. Elder William Walker Jr. ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Rhonda Washington Rhonda Washington ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Kanye West ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Roy Williams Roy Williams ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Lois Armstrong Lois Armstrong ...  Herself - CNN anchor 2 episodes, 2006
Chirrie Harris Chirrie Harris ...  Herself - Interviwee 2 episodes, 2006
Tanya Harris Tanya Harris ...  Herself - Interviwee 2 episodes, 2006
Florence Jackson Florence Jackson ...  Herself 2 episodes, 2006
Shawn Kael Shawn Kael ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2006
Douglas Kiesling Douglas Kiesling ...  Himself - Weather Paparazzi & Major Katrina Stock Footage Source 2 episodes, 2006
Michael Brown Michael Brown ...  Himself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Barbara Bush ...  Herself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
George W. Bush ...  Himself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Dick Cheney ...  Himself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Anderson Cooper ...  Himself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Russel Honore Russel Honore ...  Himself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Mike Myers ...  Himself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Betty Nguyen Betty Nguyen ...  Herself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006
Condoleezza Rice ...  Herself (archive footage) 2 episodes, 2006


In August 2005, the American city of New Orleans was struck by the powerful Hurricane Katrina. Although the storm was damaging by itself, that was not the true disaster. That happened when the city's flooding safeguards like levees failed and put most of the city, which is largely below sea level, underwater. This film covers that disastrous series of events that devastated the city and its people. Furthermore, the gross incompetence of the various governments and the powerful from the local to the federal level is examined to show how the poor and underprivileged of New Orleans were mistreated in this grand calamity and still ignored today. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


An American Tragedy




TV-MA | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

HBO [United States]





Release Date:

21 August 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

When the Levees Broke See more »

Filming Locations:

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(2 parts)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Unlike most of Spike Lee's films, this does not feature his customary titling "A Spike Lee Joint." See more »


Featured in 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die: Episode 1 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Native New Orleanian: see this movie!
19 August 2006 | by juleydaSee all my reviews

I saw this four-hour documentary here in the city, in an arena with about 8000 other locals (I was born and raised here and this is my first visit since Katrina). It was beautiful and had me crying from the opening montage, with the incredibly beautiful New Orleans music and Blanchard's haunting score. The point of the movie seemed to me to document the horrors and outrages that the human beings in the NOLA area had to survive (as Lee said introducing the movie, be sure you have a box of Kleenex), as well as their inimitable humor and love of life that has so far been the ONLY thing to sustain the city. In the nightmare aftermath of insurance ripoffs, government incompetence and stinginess, and frequent scorn and betrayal by other "Americans," we New Orleanians now know that we have NOBODY to rely on but ourselves and each other. And after watching this movie, I am beginning to have faith that that might actually be enough. Because we are strong, resourceful, loving, fun, proud, badass people. And to his enormous credit, Spike Lee totally gets us and has really captured the soul of the city itself: its priceless daughters and sons. All of us.

Our local rag, the Times-Picayune, published a racist and misleading review of the movie on the day it was going to be screened, basically saying it only portrayed the black experience of Katrina, whatever that means. Many white people I know didn't want to see it, based on this, which is a horrible mistake. Some of Lee's movies are provocative representations of race relations; this one IS NOT, or at least, not in that sense. Please don't fall for that--the documentary shows many different views, and of course not all "black" views are the same either, as we see, for example, in the astute critique of Condi Rice's shoe shopping jaunt. Racism is certainly an issue in discussing Katrina, but this movie doesn't endorse divisiveness at all.

I think we in the US, or at least in NOLA, ought to know better than to think that we can only relate to people who look like us. I wept for and laughed and cheered almost all the interviewees in the movie, whatever their skin color. The white women in St. Bernard and the black folks from the Lower Nine, the white guy from Uptown and the creoles from around the city. Even the rich couple from Park Island, who reminded my husband of Lovey and Thuston Howell. We are all affected by the events of Katrina, not in the same ways, but that's why this movie can help us. We can see many different Katrina stories and get a bit more sense of the scope and scale of this disaster. I grew up in Gentilly Woods so I identified most with the family in Pontchartrain Park, a few blocks north, even though I'm white and they're black. Go figure.

The bigger point is, white people need to stop freaking out about race and whether NOLA is a "chocolate city" or not, and look at the real problems: the wetlands, the federal, state, and local neglect of the levees, and the problems that preceded: education, economy, infrastructure. Those affect everyone in the city, and people outside NOLA should take heed, these are not just our problems either. This could happen to you.

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