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IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam


The 23rd edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the world's largest and most prestigious film event devoted exclusively to non-fiction film and media, will run from 17 - 28 November in the city of Amsterdam.


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Film In Focus: WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE

Thursday, November 23----One of the exciting events of the Opening Night festivities of the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) is the international premiere of acclaimed American director Spike Lee's moving opus WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS.

The film, which was produced by television cable giant Home Box Office and had its world premiere last month to honor the first anniversary of the devastation in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina, will be shown in its full 4 hour length, several times during the Festival.

Hurricane Katrina was no ordinary natural disaster. Not only was it the worst to ever hit a major American city, but the slowness of the government's response to the needs of its victims has become a major political issue and has, very possibly, wounded the administration of President George W. Bush beyond redemption.

Through the miracle of modern communications, the entire world saw the devastation that Hurricane Katrina wrought in New Orleans in late August 2005. As a result of the force of the hurricane, the levees of the Mississippi River broke and the city, especially its poorest sections, were flooded and mostly destroyed.

However, it was the tardy, inadequate and insensitive reactions from emergency services and government bodies that angered those most effected and eventually the entire country. More than one year later, the streets in the most devastated sections of the city remain ghost towns, with debris still lying in the streets and homes still unliveable. A city of more than 2 million people has been reduced by nearly 40%, their residents unable to return to areas that are still compromised by the events.

Less than 3 months after the Hurricane's initial impact, acclaimed director Spike Lee (DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X) went to New Orleans and captured a modern American tragedy. With adroit camerawork and devastating interviews, Lee not only chronicled the frustration and sense of disbelief of locals who felt that their government had abandoned them, but shows up the federal assistance agencies as bungling and unresponsive. Lee makes the point, reinforced by many others, that because the areas most effected in New Orleans were primarily black and poor, that the government response was much less dynamic than it otherwise would have been.

Lee alternates the images of the deserted and devastated city, to which only a fraction of the original inhabitants have returned, with colorful traditional funerals: musical parades in which people mourn the dead before celebrating life. His is a portrait of devastation, loss, but indomitable hope to rebuild and re-establish one of America's most unique and historic cities to its former glory.

The events surrounding Hurricane Katrina not only are about the devastation of nature, but the politics of race, economics and a government that is out of touch with the needs of its most impoverished citizens. There is no question that the public's witnessing of the shortcomings of the current administration in dealing with a major natural disaster has thrown into question their ability to deal with an extreme act of terrorism....or the handling of the war in Iraq.

As director Spike Lee expressed in a recent interview: "I think when we look back on this many years from now, I'm confident that people are gonna see what happened in New Orleans as a defining moment in American history. Whether that's pro or con is yet to be determined. And that's one of the reasons why I wanted to do this film."

For those wishing to understand the changing moods in America and to evaluate the recent American election which saw a major refusal of the policies of President George W. Bush, this thrilling, evocative and damning portrait is essential viewing.


Sandy Mandelberger
Online Festival Dailies Editor

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About IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam


Online Dailies of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 

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