The Gal Pal and I – with Rebecca, Brian, Kim, Ruby, Gael, Charles, Rachel’s Mom and dozens more of our acquaintance – were among a select 2,000 few to see the world premiere of Spike Lee’s Katrina+5 documentary If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise last night at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. I knew exactly how the e-vite from HBO Documentaries came my way, but other favored folks we met were completely clueless. Then there was Rachel’s Mom, who said she won her admission “in a contest.” We all liked that answer.
There was an open bar and abundant nibbles, making for a warm, happy and vocal New Orleans crowd. We yay’ed and hoorayed for the good guys on the screen (Brees, Landrieu, Gen. Honore) and booed the baddies (Nagin, BP’s Tony Hayward). The early going of Da Creek Don’t Rise was like that, all emotional ups and downs. Lee chose some amazing images of the 2005 catastrophe (the audience gasped at one view of flooded Canal Street). And he really lets go on the 2010 Saints championship, both the game and the celebration. The Who-Dat Nation never looked better. Such great fun to watch and savor.
The big swoon happens around 40 minutes in. You begin to tire of all the talking heads in Spike’s new joint, the same go-anywhere-for-a-buck historians and thoughtful-looking anchor types who are as boring and irrelevant as they are on TV just about every goddamn night of the week. Why bother with these guys when the locals are so entertaining, insightful, and well…involved with daily life in New Orleans?
Even worse, Spike Lee can’t seem to break from the stereotype of New Orleanians as everybody’s favorite victims. Why do we applaud and encourage such fictions (my main beef with HBO’s Treme too)? It’s 2010, dumplins, as Julie Marsden would say, two thousand and ten! Time to change this picture. We’re not the doomed and helpless flotsam of America, tragically oppressed by greedy oil execs and evil politicians. We’re more like the fractious drifters in a Lifeboat. And just remember what happened when they all started pulling together.