18 March 2014
When the Levees Broke Rhetorical Analysis
On August 25th at six thirty P.M, one of the most devastating natural disasters the U.S had ever seen touched ground in Florida. Hurricane Katrina was a category five hurricane that had made its way to New Orleans by August 29th. This storm was so destructive that not only did it leave a mark in the gulf coast, but it put the whole country into complete turmoil. Spike Lee was one of the first people to try to start a movement and show the country what really happened during this brutal storm. In the film When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee does a fantastic job at using the people of New Orleans to back up his argument that the United States government did not do an effective job at protecting its people during such harsh times. Lee’s background has a tremendous influence towards how he constructed this film. Spike Lee’s film When the Levees Broke sends a very strong message out to his audience and does a great job at stirring up the argument of whether or not the government could have done a more efficient job at taking care of the city of New Orleans.
Spike Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 20th, 1957, but was raised in Brooklyn, New York where he developed his roots with the New York Knicks. Lee’s father was a jazz musician, his mother a teacher of arts and literature, so therefore music and art were important in his household. While growing up in New York, he felt that sports were his passion and that he wanted to direct his career in sports. Lee felt that his best option would be to try to become a major league baseball player. Eventually, Lee came to the realization that it was better off to attend college. In the mid 70’s, Lee attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. While in school, Lee began to focus his attention towards film and eventually released his first piece. In 1977, Lee unveiled Last Hustle in Brooklyn. From then on, Lee began to release movies that would stir controversies such as his film She’s Gotta Have it. Spike Lee is known globally as a director who loves to take a side in a controversial argument and “poke” at it. A very emotional person, Lee puts pure passion into what he does. He demonstrates a plentiful amount of black pride in all of his movies. A very interesting director, Lee does a terrific job at creating films with a strong message.
It is very clear, when watching When the Levees Broke, that Lee is displaying the message that the U.S government did a poor job at preparing and aiding the city when it was in such distress. Lee used the combination of disturbing and emotional images to help back up his argument that the United States government should have been more effective during these harsh times. One part of the argument is that the United States Army Corps of Engineers did a poor job at designing the levees. Lee went as far as suggesting that the whole disaster was preventable if there had been better designing. When interviewed, Garland Robinette stated, “People think we got hit by a hurricane, we got missed by a hurricane.” He explains that the levees took on category 1 and category 2 back up’s, which means they should not have been able to break from these floods. The movie showed that the floods eroded through the ground and managed to spew through the levees. Later in 2005, Dr.Peter Nicholson came out with a testimony explaining that the designs were in fact faulty and that erosion is what led to the levee failures. He quotes in his testimony, “Obvious soil failures within the embankment or foundation soils at or below the bases of the earthen levees had occurred at two of the breaches.” This was one of the many statements that Dr.Nicholson made in which he explained that the designs were poor and needed immediate improvement. Lee incorporates a comparison of the walls in New Orleans compared to the walls in the Netherlands. Dr.Ivor VanHeerden is the director of...
Cited: Lee, Spike, dir. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in four acts. HBO Documentary Films, 2006. Film
Nicholson , Peter. "Hurricane Katrina: Why Did the Levees Fail?." American Society of Civil Engineers 2005: Web. 15 Mar. 2014.
Schneider, Saundra. "Administrative Breakdowns in the Governmental Response to Hurricane Katrina." MSU.edu. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.
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