If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise: Spike Lee New Orleans Docu

August 3, 2010 – Five years after Hurricane Katrina, director Spike Lee returns to New Orleans to see how the plans to reinvent the Crescent City are playing out in the all-new, four-hour documentary IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE.

The story that is book-ended by a pair of momentous events — the historic 2010 Super Bowl victory and the disastrous British Petroleum oil spill — that changed the history of America’s most unique city once again.  The film debuts in two parts on MONDAY, AUG. 23 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) and TUESDAY, AUG. 24 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), exclusively on HBO.

IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE continues the story of the rebirth of the Big Easy, begun in Lee’s epic, Emmy- and Peabody-winning 2006 documentary “When the Levees Broke:  A Requiem in Four Acts.”  Alongside the city’s storied ability to celebrate life with unmatchable ebullience, Lee documents the successes and failures in the ongoing efforts to restore housing, healthcare, education, economic  growth and law and order to a battered community.

“We knew when we finished the first film that the story wasn’t over,” says Lee.  “It was clear it would take a long time for the city to get back on its feet.”

Lee and his crew arrived in New Orleans in Feb. 2010 during a new wave of optimism, led by the Who Dat Nation, the community of passionate fans of the NFL champion New Orleans Saints football team.  “The mood in New Orleans was great when we got there,” Lee recalls.  “They’d just won a Super Bowl.  They had a new mayor and people’s spirits were high.”

New Orleanians were also encouraged by a series of legal victories that promised accountability for some of the devastating damage done to their homes by massive flooding during and after the storm.  Notably, in Nov. 2009, a federal district court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers was culpably negligent for poor maintenance of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO), a major navigation channel, which led to some of the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina.  The ruling paved the way for long-awaited financial restitution.

A lack of affordable housing is one of several serious ongoing problems faced by the city’s poor, especially the primarily African-American residents of the devastated Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard’s Parish.  The four large public housing developments have been shuttered, and rents have soared, with the average fair-market value of an apartment rising from $578 in 2005 to $881 in 2009.  Only 38 percent of the private homes destroyed in the hurricane have been rebuilt.

“Some parts of the city are rebuilt,” Lee notes.  “But a lot of houses in those areas are in the same condition they were five years ago.”

New Orleanians have rebuilt their own homes, as well.  Grammy-winning musician Terence Blanchard, who was seen accompanying his elderly mother to her ruined residence in “When the Levees Broke,” returns for a tour of the lovingly restored home, which his mother insisted be reconstructed exactly as it was.

Just as Lee believed filming was complete, tragedy struck the Gulf once more.  On April 20, a deepwater offshore oil rig operated by British Petroleum exploded, unleashing torrents of oil into the Gulf, resulting in one of the biggest environmental disasters of all time.  Lee and his crew immediately returned to assess the impact of this latest calamity and capture the reaction of area residents.

“The people of the Gulf Coast feel they’ve been victimized by greed – again,” says Lee.  “The Army Corps cut corners and built the faulty levees.  Oil companies and gas companies are jeopardizing the barrier islands and the wetlands.  They too are trying to cut corners, and 11 people are dead because of it.  The people want answers.  They want their environment and their way of life to be saved.”

More than 300 people share their stories in IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE, including former La. 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.  In addition, longtime New Orleans residents such as Phyllis Montana-Leblanc, Kimberly Polk and Shelton “Shakespear” Alexander, whose compelling testimonies were a key part of “When the Levees Broke,” provide updates on their lives.

IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE is Spike Lee’s fourth feature-length collaboration with HBO, following 2006’s Emmy- and Peabody-winning “When the Levees Broke:  A Requiem in Four Acts,” 1998’s “4 Little Girls,” Oscar-nominated in the Documentary Feature category, and 2002’s “Jim Brown:  All-American.”

HBO Documentary Films and 40 Acres And A Mule Filmworks Present A Spike Lee Joint; producers, Sam Pollard and Spike Lee; director, Spike Lee; line producer, Butch Robinson; supervising editor, Sam Pollard; director of photography, Cliff Charles; music, Terence Blanchard; editor, Geeta Gandbhir.  For HBO:  supervising producer, Jacqueline Glover; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.