When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Critics Consensus

When the Levees Broke offers a heart-rending elegy for an American city overflowing with culture, beset by natural disaster, and betrayed by institutional indifference.

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 34

96%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,839
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Movie Info

Spike Lee documents life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city's anti-flooding safeguards in 2005. In the film, New Orleans residents tell their stories and vent their anger -- some calmly, some with unbridled rage -- at the callousness displayed by their local, state and national leaders. Survivors share their own heartbreaking tales, leveling charges and challenges at the officials who failed to protect their lives, their homes and their city.

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News & Interviews for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Critic Reviews for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (33) | Rotten (1)

  • Think of the film as a companion in mourning.

    May 9, 2020 | Full Review…
  • ... masterful crosscutting mix of past and present, of authority and anguish, of ass-covering officialdom and angry dispossession, of sick-city misery and soul-stirring music...

    January 17, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The same didactic instincts that sometimes mar Lee's fictional filmmaking serve him well as a documentarian and eulogist.

    September 23, 2006 | Rating: 4/4
    Globe and Mail
    Top Critic
  • Surely the most magnificent and large-souled record of a great American tragedy ever put on film.

    August 28, 2006

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • What breaks your heart is the film's accumulated firsthand stories of New Orleans residents who lost everything in the flood after Hurricane Katrina, and the dismaying conclusion that a year after the disaster, the broken city has been largely abandoned.

    August 22, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • When the Levees Broke is like the New Orleans jazz funeral -- a dirge on the way to the cemetery, an up-tempo parade in the deceased's honor on the bittersweet walk back home.

    August 22, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

  • Sep 14, 2014
    I thought this movie did a brilliant job of depicting just how much Hurricane Katrina ruined the lives of so many New Orleans residents. I couldn't believe everything I saw - truly heartbreaking and difficult to imagine.
    Erin C Super Reviewer
  • Jun 20, 2013
    Spike Lee insisted that we watch all 4 hours, 15 minutes without a break at the Film Festival. We obliged even though it was eventually broken up over 5 nights on PBS. I derived nothing from the "uncut" version but such an epic still deserves praise in telling the tale of those who's lives were changed due to government neglect.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2011
    Spike Lee's touching documentary on Hurricane Katrina is horrific and beautiful. A film that all americans should see.
    Graham J Super Reviewer
  • May 29, 2008
    Very touching it will make you cry
    khalvic b Super Reviewer

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