When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts Director: Spike Lee The film: It begins with Louis Armstrong's Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans backing a montage of the Big Easy's past and present, and ends with Fats Domino's Walking to New Orleans playing as the Sun sets over Lake Pontchartrain. Spike Lee's documentary on Hurricane Katrina does call for such apposite bookends, as the loss and grief of the city's inhabitants during and after the disaster is captured in a remarkably measured manner. The four-hour film features extensive interviews with both politicians and ordinary citizens, combined with news footage throughout last year as Lee attempts to pose questions and imply answers about why New Orleans suffered such unmitigated tragedy. It reveals a complete breakdown in the authorities' chain of command and a lack of compassion in the corridors of power. By laying bare the human cost of the disaster, Lee has given The City that Care Forgot - a nickname originally used to refer to the laidback demeanour of its citizens - a completely new meaning. The footage is heart-rending: an elderly man watches his wheelchair-bound wife drifting helplessly in the floods, a young student discovers the body of his dead mother in her home, and people return to the city to find their homes completely destroyed. Lee's film is a fiery expose of the systematic failures that led to these tragedies, whether it's the weak levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers or the inept response of local authorities, or - most importantly - the Federal Emergency Management Agency, headed by President George W. Bush-appointed former oil lobbyist Michael Brown. But two statements stand out. One is former first lady Barbara Bush's almost derisive remark about people being relocated to Texas. 'Many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were very underprivileged anyway,' she says, and find their new lives 'working very well for them'. Then there's Kanye West's comments on television. Concluding his criticism about how African Americans are treated and represented in reports about Katrina, he says: 'George Bush doesn't care about black people.' These comments form the fulcrum on which Lee deftly attacks the inherent racism in American politics and the way the Bush administration regarded the problems of New Orleans so lightly. Both Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney remained on holiday when Katrina struck, while Condoleezza Rice was shopping for shoes and going to a musical. The extras: An additional Act Five features two hours of more interviews and footage of New Orleans in rehabilitation - a sign of both hope and despair. As an apt conclusion to Lee's visual poetry, the release concludes with Water is Rising, a gallery of photos of New Orleans' post-Katrina trauma with an evocative soundtrack by local musician Terence Blanchard (left). The verdict: Both an examinaton of human suffering and a vociferous attack on how American politics is drowned in Machiavellian schemes and dictums that nears old-style racism, When the Levees Broke ranks as one of the best documentaries of 2006.