VOICES: Spike Lee's Levee Joint

Aug. 20, 2006 — -- Spike Lee's in-your-face style has earned him plenty of fans and foes over 20 years of filmmaking. And he's sure to get plenty more of both with his new documentary on Katrina and its aftermath, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts."

Spike Lee: It looked like a Hollywood movie set of some horrific, apocalyptic Steven Spielberg film that Steven hasn't made yet that would cost like, the production must have cost hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. That's what it looked like.

One of the most poignant interviews in the film is given by an older man. His name is Herbert Freeman.

Herbert Freeman, from "When the Levees Broke": I said, "But I'm going to board up the windows and things and, you know, we just try and survive it out."

Lee: And his mother, Ethel, became almost a poster for Katrina. She survived the hurricane, survived the breach of the levees, but died at the Convention Center.

Freeman, from "Levees": So I seen her with her head down like she was asleep. So I went to go shake her and she didn't respond. So I shook her again. She didn't respond. And then I said, "Oh, Lord, it look like my Mama died out here."

Lee: Before he got on the bus, he got a piece of paper, wrote his name, his cell number and her name, and placed the paper between her fingers, her body. … He wanted to stand vigil over his mother's body.

How could this happen in supposedly the wealthiest, mightiest country in the world? And, really, that's the question.