It’s been five years, and many sections of New Orleans are still reeling from Hurricane Katrina’s wrath. Famed director Spike Lee returned to the Crescent City for a four-hour documentary, If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise,which examines the aftermath of Katrina and two distinct events – the 2010 Super Bowl victory and the BP oil spill – which have also left indelible marks on New Orleans.
The documentary continues where Lee’s 2006 project, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, left off. “We knew when we finished the first film that the story wasn’t over,” said Lee in a statement. “It was clear it would take a long time for the city to get back on its feet.”
The most recent documentary looks at the Big Easy’s ability to rebound after the cataclysmic natural disaster; the jovial New Orleans culture that’s lauded worldwide and most importantly, the successes and failures of efforts to repair housing, education and the economy.
Lee and his crew arrived in New Orleans in February and were engulfed by the optimism of New Orleans Saints fans fresh off the team’s Super Bowl win. “They’d just won a Super Bowl. They had a new mayor and people’s spirits were high,” Lee added.
But fear and mistrust persisted among many residents, namely African Americans, who told Lee they believed New Orleans would become gentrified and inaccessible to the very people who’d lived there longest. Adding to some residents’ dilemma is an affordable housing shortage affecting many in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward and St.
Bernard’s Parish. According to Lee and his crew, only 38 percent of the private homes destroyed in the hurricane have been restored. “Some parts of the city are rebuilt,” the School Daze director reports in the documentary, “but a lot of houses in those areas are in the same condition they were five years ago.”
More than 300 people share their stories in If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, including former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, historian Douglas Brinkley, activist actors Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, Houston Mayor Anisse Parker and community organizer Tanya Harris.
The film debuts in two parts on Aug. 23 9-11 p.m. (EST) and Aug. 24, 9-11 p.m. exclusively on HBO. For more information, visit hbo.com.