Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Race and Adoption --(National, Transracial, Transnational)

Lisa Lerner in alternet "A Mother Adopts, and Discovers Her Own Racism"

"The first photo I received of Vaishali showed her with fair skin. I was surprised, because from what my adoption agency told me, the child assigned to me would be much darker. After I got over that surprise, I had another: I felt relief. Suddenly -- guiltily -- it was a comfort to know that she would not look so different from me, and even more important, that her light skin would save her from a lifetime of prejudice. [...]

Back home, after a couple weeks had passed, I stared at Vaishali's naked bottom -- her darkest part -- and tried to ignore the insistent whispers of fear. Instead of brimming with pride, I felt like a trespasser, performing ablutions on this private flesh with color so foreign from my own. It was one thing to swoon over her photographs for months, but now she was in my home; she was my family. How could this be my daughter? I looked at her and tried to find similarities between us, relieved that her hair was straight, her lips not too full. Just thinking these thoughts made me feel horribly ashamed. I tried to sort emotion from fact: was it the dark color of her skin that was making me uncomfortable, or just that she did not look like me? I ached to talk to someone about it, but I was too afraid people would disapprove, would doubt my ability to be a loving mother." (read entire article)

LYNETTE CLEMETSON and RON NIXON" in new york times "Overcoming Adoption’s Racial Barriers"

"Ms. Brockway and Mr. Timble decided to adopt after a physically and emotionally wrenching first pregnancy — their daughter was delivered at 25 weeks. They did not want to deal with the long wait for a white infant, and adopting from overseas did not appeal to them.

“Some people see Asian or other ethnicities as closer to white, more acceptable, easier,” said Ms. Brockway, a teacher. “That’s just not us. We feel like we have the open arms and minds to be a good match to an African-American child.” (read entire article)

More on - "When the Levees Broke"

""To be honest, I'm not sure what I would have done if Spike hadn't come when he did," she says. "I had a nervous breakdown right after Katrina, and I was fighting every day not to have another one. But talking about it to someone who I know cared about me and the people who suffered through this—it saved my sanity in a way. And I'm sure I'm not the only one." Spike's Katrina Allison Samuels in newsweek (read entire article)

Monday, August 21, 2006

‘When the Levees Broke’: Spike Lee’s Tales From a Broken City

Stephen Holden in the new york times

A powerful chorus of witnesses and talking heads that cuts across racial and class lines was assembled for the four-hour film, to be shown tonight and tomorrow on HBO in two-hour blocks. Although seeds of hope are woven into this tapestry of rage, sorrow and disbelief, the inability of government at almost every level to act quickly and decisively leaves you aghast at what amounts to a collective failure of will.

The sights, familiar from television, are as shocking as ever: people stranded on rooftops waving signs pleading for help from passing helicopters and the thousands herded into the Superdome, which over several days turned into a giant, leaky sewer. Saddest of all are the personal stories of people who lost loved ones in the flood that inundated 80 percent of the city, leaving large sections looking like a bombed-out war zone. The sheer volume of suffering and misery chronicled by the film is crushing.

We hear horror stories of the ailing and elderly whose bodies were discovered by family members returning to their devastated homes. At the end of one chapter the film shows corpses, some covered, some not, left on the street to rot. (read entire article)

Spike Lee crafts complex, monumental look at Katrina

Barry Garron yahoo news

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Spike Lee calls his four-hour documentary on Hurricane Katrina a requiem, which it is, but that only begins to describe it.

The film, broken into four parts, is much more than a memorial chant to those who died in a natural disaster that went largely unmitigated by manmade relief. It also is a comprehensive look at what the storm did to the lives of the people who survived it.

The docu doesn't shrink from any part of the story. It includes the vast landscape of devastation, which is indisputable, as well as the assignment of blame for the tragic and inadequate response, some of which remains debatable. Lee's work is big enough to allow for conflicting opinions, though in most cases, it isn't hard to discern where the filmmaker stands.

There are powerful images and words during both nights, but if you must choose only one to watch, pick the first. Acts I and II deal with the predictions of the hurricane, the terrible storm and the immediate aftermath. The faces of Katrina's victims, as they describe their life-or-death ordeals, are flat-out unforgettable. Individual accounts put larger stories -- everything from the horrors at the Superdome to the extent of looting -- into greater perspective

(read entire article)

When the Levees Broke

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

As the world watched in horror, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Like many who watched the unfolding drama on television news, director Spike Lee was shocked not only by the scale of the disaster, but by the slow, inept and disorganized response of the emergency and recovery effort. Lee was moved to document this modern American tragedy, a morality play witnessed by people all around the world. The result is WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS. The film is structured in four acts, each dealing with a different aspect of the events that preceded and followed Katrina's catastrophic passage through New Orleans. Acts I and II premiere Monday, August 21 at 9pm (ET/PT), followed by Acts III and IV on Tuesday, August 22 at 9pm. All four acts will be seen Tuesday, Aug. 29 (8:00 p.m.-midnight), the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. (read entire article)

'King Leopold’s Ghost' Recounts Tales of Unimaginable Terror

MANOHLA DARGIS in the new york times

Europe’s genocidal adventures in Africa receive a passionate reckoning in the ambitious documentary “King Leopold’s Ghost.” Working from Adam Hochschild’s best-selling history of the same title, the producer and first-time director Pippa Scott has enlisted a legion of talking heads to help tell a story of insatiable greed and unimaginable terror. Among those tapped for their expertise are academics, historians, Congolese elders and, for some reason, the memoirist Frank McCourt. Mr. Hochschild proves particularly effective, since he gets right to it: “What made it possible for Congo state officials to deal out all this pain and terror? Race.”

The barbarism of King Leopold of Belgium, the subject of another recent documentary, “Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death,” remains shocking. In the mid-1880’s, with the help of the explorer Henry Morton Stanley and the approval of the world’s leading powers, Leopold seized a swath of Africa (then the Congo Free State, now the Democratic Republic of Congo) more than 76 times the size of Belgium, turning it into a personal capitalist venture. Using a large private army whose numbers included Congolese orphans, the king and his agents squeezed the land of its resources, slaughtering elephants for ivory, tapping trees for rubber. The Congolese were uprooted, separated, enslaved, whipped and mutilated (hands were cut off, sometimes for accounting purposes), leaving as many as 10 million dead. (read entire article)

Spike Lee Films the New Orleans Disaster His Way

There are two Spike Lees. One is an artist capable of directing exceptional films, the other a public personality who suffers from flare-ups of foot-in-mouth disease and a fondness for conspiracy theories. Both sides of Mr. Lee’s personality express themselves in his new HBO documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” As a result it is by turns powerful and frustrating.

There are moments of such sheer emotional force in Mr. Lee’s film that words cannot adequately describe them.

A drowned 5-year-old girl named Sarena Polk is laid to rest in a little pink casket. Her mother, Kimberly, walks away from the funeral sobbing. Her cries describe the gulf between despair and sadness. What would probably seem crass and exploitative on the television news feels intimate in this film.

Mr. Lee also sets the record straight on the false reports that spun out of the chaos, stories about men raping babies and shooting at helicopters, which portrayed the victims as savages. Those stories, magnified or invented whole cloth, drowned out the risks and sacrifices of Louisianans, which far outweighed the instances of criminality and opportunism. And those reports helped harden the views of many against rebuilding the city.

There are several reasons to make a documentary like “When the Levees Broke.” One is to create a historical record. A more important goal is to draw attention to the continued misery of the victims and, one would hope, encourage a new rush of aid and assistance for those struggling to rebuild. But Mr. Lee undermines the latter goal whenever his film reduces Katrina to a black problem.

Without quite endorsing them, Mr. Lee presents the utterly unfounded charges that the failed levees were blown up to flood poor black neighborhoods.

The resulting deluge destroyed the homes of black and white residents of New Orleans, including those in better-off neighborhoods like Lakeview. There are enough hard facts and plenty of injustice to go around in the story of the dangerous and woefully insufficient levees and the dismally bungled federal response to the disaster. Mr. Lee does not need to dwell on the most divisive rumors.

“When the Levees Broke” soars when it emphasizes what a terrible human tragedy Katrina was. In one instance, Mr. Lee presents a stark montage of bloated corpses. But he refuses to reduce these people to no more than symbols. A friend of one of the dead men, whose image is by now familiar because it has been used over and over by media outlets, says sadly yet defiantly, “The guy’s name was Eddie.” Suddenly, simply, the viewer cannot look at the storm’s dead the same way again. (read entire article)

N.O. better blues


Aug. 20, 2006 | NEW ORLEANS -- People had been talking for weeks about how the New Orleans premiere of Spike Lee's much anticipated Hurricane Katrina documentary, "When the Levees Broke," was sold out, so it was a little eerie when we arrived at New Orleans Arena Wednesday night to find that fewer than half of the 14,000 who'd reportedly snatched up the free tickets actually showed up for the event. Maybe they'd heard there would be no alcohol sold in the arena. Certainly Lee's ambitious film -- sweeping in its scope, emotionally intense and a challenge to watch in one sitting -- could drive just about anyone to drink. It's also possible that all those people who didn't show up don't live here anymore. The new New Orleans can be a pretty lonely town sometimes.

Which is partly why watching a Katrina documentary with thousands of other local residents -- certain to be a gut-wrenching experience -- also carried with it the possibility of catharsis. All summer long, apprehension about the first anniversary of "The Storm" (First? Really? Why does everyone look 10 years older already?) has been steadily building. With so many people still assessing their losses, coming up with a meaningful commemoration can be difficult. I know that 11 months ago I would never have predicted that I might be sitting in the arena across the street from the Superdome -- eating nachos, no less -- eager to watch more footage of what I thought I'd witnessed too much of already.

Lee kept his introductory comments brief, thanking the audience for the opportunity to tell their story. He encouraged people to laugh at the funny parts. Given how common inexplicable weeping spells are around here (as I write this from my neighborhood coffee shop, there is a man next to me reading his e-mail and sobbing intermittently -- I don't even ask anymore) everyone seemed relieved to hear that there would be funny parts, even if they did turn out to be few and far between.

Lee has frequently stated that at four hours – apparently the longest running time ever for an HBO original movie -- "Levees" is still not long enough, nor complete, and he's right. But through hundreds of interviews, "Levees" admirably covers an entire spectrum of events and circumstances. Starting with Katrina's landfall and the flooding from levee breaks, Lee moves quickly into the rapid spread of conspiracy theories and the government's refusal to address them. We see familiar footage of the botched evacuation, as Americans became refugees in their own country, and witness, again, how it was the inaction of elected leaders, not bad weather, that led to the subsequent breakdown of their lives.(read entire article)