*The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Arts and Entertainment Task Force, screening of a 90 minutes version of director Spike Lee’s new HBO documentary, “If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise,” at Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego, California was a standing room only event.

The complete HBO film is set to air in two parts on August 21st and 23rd. The film which started out as an update on what has happened to the citizens of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina ballooned into a four hour documentary with the advent of the BP Oil Spill on the Gulf of Mexico.

It is a must see film.

Lee’s preview and the question and answer session after the screening was well received by the curious NABJ conventioneers. The film traced the highs and lows of living in the city of New Orleans and most recently the Gulf Coast. It opens with actress Phyllis Montana LeBlanc (“Treme”) vehement retort on what has happened to her beloved city.  The camera then pans to showing several images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.

In sharp contrast, the scene shifts to showing the “Who Da” nation, as the New Orleans Saints football fans are fondly called, Superbowl XLIV Pre-Game celebration. The emotional roller coaster continues with celebratory scenes from the Superbowl XLIV game; the post celebration after the Saints won the Super Bowl; the Saints Victory Parade and then the drama began.

Shifting back to Lee’s examination of what occurred after some project residents of the crescent city returned home after Hurricane Katrina only to find that their homes were condemned was riveting. Showing the city council vote that caused this action and the citizens’ upheaval that took place was instructive. The graphic scenes of huge bulldozers demolishing the angry residents’ homes to make way for new developments were chilling.  Amid Lee’s serious and sometimes funny interviews with Gulf Coast residents, he introduced the BP Oil Spill on the Gulf of Mexico.  

Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood, made the audience laugh when he intimated that he always thought the USA would be done in by the Russians or Chinese, he never believe it would be the British.

“Should I get a t-shirts that says the British are coming back,” he quipped.  

The film’s discussion of the BP Oil Spill that occurred 107 days ago at Deep Water Horizon on the Gulf Coast illuminates the USA’s oil addiction front and center. Lee was able to capture the angst that the Gulf Coast citizens are feeling as the prediction of the worst hurricane season is about to occur and the torrent of oil flowing in the Gulf of Mexico potentially intersects.

One interviewee said that the oil will be lifted up from the sea and sent airborne “who knows where it will land.” Lee’s interviews with US Senator Mary Landrieu; her brother Mitchell Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans; former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin; US Senator John Kerry; General Honore, the general credited with bringing order to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, parish leaders; Gulf Coast politicians; writers; scientists; professors and fishermen, gives the film a full view of the euphoria and depression that occurred recently on the Gulf Coast.

“If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise” will make you laugh, angry and ponder. This documentary should make one wonder what we are doing to our environment because of “greed.” If a city such as New Orleans, which produces a substantial amount of oil for the USA, is to survive, we must decrease our dependence on oil. I gave Spike Lee kudos for making this compelling documentary.

Poster artwork for ‘If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise’ by Art Sims/1124 Design