The devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina left America wondering about the safety of its public systems and the ability of its officials to handle challenges. These 6 Documentaries About Hurricane Katrina Will Flood Your Emotions as impoverished citizens, overwhelmed officials and frustrated observers try to grapple with a devastating storm and a difficult journey to rebuild their beloved city.


When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts This extensive 2006 HBO documentary, directed by Spike Lee, won numerous awards including the prestigious Peabody Award and three Emmys. The film examines both the powerful storm and the devastating failure of the city’s levee system, which particularly impacted the poor and underprivileged in New Orleans. Lee uses a wide range of residents including Mayor Ray Nagin to media personalities like CNN’s Soledad O'Brien to explore how both the local and federal government agencies failed to protect the city’s citizens before, during and after the storm.

If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise (HBO) Spike Lee returned to New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina to examine how the city was recovering in housing, education and economic sectors. The spirited residents continue to struggle but persevere, even as the BP oil spill becomes a new threat to the fragile Gulf Coast. Lee creates a stunning portrait of the city’s unique and vibrant personality, alongside a troubling review of the slow progress following the storm’s devastation.


Trouble the Water This 2008 Oscar-nominated documentary takes an unusual view of New Orleans before and after Katrina. Aspiring rapper Kimberly Roberts was a 24-year-old resident of the ninth ward, which suffered some of the worst damage from the failed city levees. Roberts provides an up-close-and-personal view of the impoverished district before the Katrina hit. After the waters receded, filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin follow Roberts and her friends as they create new lives and opportunities. This heart-rending film also won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival for Best Documentary.

Kamp Katrina (2007) presents a darker view of the human spirit in the face of devastating change. Following Katrina, ninth ward residents David Cross and his wife Ms. Pearl convert their backyard into a tent city, offering a space for 14 dispossessed New Orleans residents as long as they kept a promise to not make trouble. Sadly, this optimistic situation soon turns ugly, with the tent-dwellers becoming violent and abusing drugs, as their frustrations build at the long, hard struggle to reclaim the city stumbles. 


Hurricane Katrina: The Storm That Drowned a City is a startling recreation by the NOVA PBS series. The film depicts how storm’s progress over the Gulf and into the city, with scientists and meteorologists explain why the Katrina became such a lethal event, with over 1,000 residents killed and many thousands more displaced. With eyewitness accounts, and graphic recreations, this documentary provides a detailed understanding of the natural disaster and offers solutions that have worked elsewhere as state-of-the-art flood protection systems for the future.

The Storm from the investigative reporters at Frontline on PBS, examine why government agencies developed to handle natural disasters completely failed to prepare, coordinate and communicate during Hurricane Katrina. The program includes interviews with leaders such as Mayor Roy Nagin, Gov. Blanco, and former FEMA Director Michael Brown, as well as other experts to learn the lessons from the catastrophic response to the storm.