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Harry Shearer Talks Expose The Big Uneasy, Media Coverage of Katrina, Spike Lee’s “Canards”

Harry Shearer Talks Expose The Big Uneasy, Media Coverage of Katrina, Spike Lee's "Canards"

Thompson on Hollywood

The tagline for Harry Shearer’s The Big Uneasy, a Katrina doc that digs into the Army Corps of Engineers’ role in the post-hurricane New Orleans flood, reads “Natural Disaster? You Don’t Know the Half Of It.” Shearer is well-known to public radio listeners for his weekly Sunday talkfest Le Show; the Renaissance man is not only a sharp and funny writer-actor-producer-director and mockumentarian (This is Spinal Tap, For Your Consideration, The Simpsons) but a well-versed media commentator and blogger for The Huffington Post. The half-time New Orleans resident is dead-serious when covering the Katrina debacle. On the eve of the hurricane’s fifth anniversary, he decided that putting his own more deeply reported documentary into the conversation might help bring the mainstream media up to speed.

Because HBO had already given space to Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke and Treme, the cabler did not pick up Shearer’s expose, which reveals the Army Corps of Engineers as not only incompetent and reckless, but even dangerous. Shearer put his own money behind this intelligent examination of what led the New Orleans levees to break in multiple places and flood 90% of the city. He opened The Big Uneasy for one night at the fifth anniversary, and then took it around to fests like Ashland (which gave Shearer its Rogue Award) and theaters around the country, in some cities that are facing their own threats of Army Corps flood disasters.

See my video interview and trailer below.

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Sandy Rosenthal

Thirty-two days after the BP oil spill, President Obama signed an executive order for a bipartisan national commission to investigat­e the disaster to make certain it never happens again. There was a similar immediate commission for the Challenger explosion and the Twin Tower collapses.

But after five and a half years, there is still no comparable investigat­ion, ordered by Congress or the White House, of the levee protection failures that drowned metro New Orleans and killed over 1,500 people.

Fifty-five percent of the American population lives in counties protected by levees. Clearly, there should be a truly independen­t analysis of the flood protection failures – and the decision making involved – that led to the devastatio­n in metro New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005.

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