Preface: This will be one of several blog posts that concern our screening of When the Levees Broke. Due to this film’s lengthy runtime and countless topics of discussion, I believe this serial response to be the most fitting way to frame my response.
I could not describe my level of exhaustion after hopping on a red-eye from LAX to Chicago and finally to Hartford this Sunday morning. As I rushed through my room to change into comfortable gear for our four-hour screening of Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, I was very aware that I could fall asleep, tucked away in the back of Stirn Auditorium with a bottle of water in one hand and a medium iced coffee in the other. To my surprise, this film, or rather this epic saga of the countless lives that were altered forever by Hurricane Katrina gripped me and would not let go. With each passing interview and found-footage visual, I found myself struggling with several emotions and thoughts all at once, some of which forced me to step outside and compose myself on more than one occasion. Even as I sit here at the edge of my bed writing this preface to a series of posts concerning what we all had just witnessed, I’m hard-pressed to find a place to begin. I guess the following series of posts will attempt to draw a meandering thread through my experience contending with this beautifully crafted documentary. I want to unpack some aspects of this film in a way that characterizes how it caused my own walls of personal experience, racial identity and overall understanding to sway and give to the historicity of this tragedy.