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Spike Does The Right Thing

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When the Levees Broke
HBO, tonight, 8pm

The easiest thing that Spike Lee could have done in tackling the documentary about last year's tragedy in the Gulf Coast was pile-on to the Bush and Brownie bashing.

He could have put a Michael Moore hit piece on FEMA and the President and also thrown the New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor under the bus. Lord knows there were enough witnesses, enough news reports, and enough fuck-ups to bury anyone whom one of the most controversial directors of the last few decades had in his sights.

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Instead, Lee simply told the story, which includes people blaming others, which includes spotlighting heroes, which includes experts explaining how it happened.

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The stars of this documentary are not the famous names that you know, but the actual people who were effected. They're not whiners. They point fingers a little and invite those responsible to kiss their ass, but they mostly grieve and promise to return.

And when they return, as some do in the clip after the jump, you don't see those strangers that you saw on the roofs or in the Superdome, you see your grandmother and your uncle and your mother. You see middle-class Americans with feelings who deserved help and didn't get it.

"I'm 59 years old," a woman says, with a forced smile on her face. "My husband is 67 years old. We worked hard. We're well-educated. He's got a Masters from UCLA, undergrad from Berkeley. I have a law degree, an MBA, and I had nothing. I had nothing. I don't know how to make you understand the despair, the depression, the anxiety..."

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You will cry.