If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise (HBO)
While Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke (itself a Peabody winner in 2006) was the most significant filmic reconstruction of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina, his follow-up, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, actually broadens the scope. Shot to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the storm’s historic assault on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (and the widely recognized governmental shortfalls that followed), the four hour film revisits many of the faces from its predecessor: New Orleans East resident Phyllis Montana-Leblanc recites the poem that gives the film its name, rapper Shelton “Shakespeare” Alexander offers his perspective in song, and former mayor Ray Nagin, former governor Kathleen Blanco, and disgraced FEMA chief Michael Brown are offered the opportunity to reassess their legacies. But If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise is anything but reminiscence. Emphasis on more recent developments good (the New Orleans Saints’ improbable Super Bowl run), bad (corruption in New Orleans’ police force, systemic failures in the city’s education and housing sectors), and catastrophic (a prolonged investigation of the BP oil spill) underlines the work’s major thesis that the events of August and September 2005 reverberate to an extent we can hardly imagine. Punctuated by Terence Blanchard’s brilliant orchestral score, Lee’s wonderfully edited footage and interviews assume an unforgettable tragic beauty. A Peabody Award goes to If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise for ambitiously chronicling one of the hugest disasters in American history, interrogating the well-known narratives and investigating other stories that could have easily fallen through the cracks.
Executive producer: Sheila Nevins Producers: Sam Pollard, Spike Lee. Supervising producer: Jacqueline Glover. Director: Spike Lee. Director of photography: Cliff Charles. Editors: Sam Pollard, Geeta Gandhbhir.