“New Orleans in the house!” Spike Lee shouted to the crowd at the New Orleans Arena Wednesday night, at the debut of his HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. “New Orleans in the hiz-ouse!”
That line earned the first laugh of the evening. In this Requiem in Four Acts, all four of which were shown Wednesday night, totaling just over four hours, there were plenty of laughs. They tended to be artfully interspersed in this necessarily heavy documentary. And yet, more importantly, these laughs showed something about the strength of the New Orleans character. This great humor, like the outcome of a jazz funeral, is part of a profound sense of life.
One woman discussed having her house picked up by the flood waters, then carried down the block to be left in Mr. John’s yard. When she told her mother about the fate of their house, the mother paused for a moment, then replied, “Well, Mr. John can’t say I never gave him anything.”
Be there; you might learn something.