By Ken Tucker
Updated August 24, 2010 at 06:55 PM EDT

Not as magisterially furious or as precisely organized as Spike Lee’s previous Hurricane Katrina documentary When The Levees Broke, the director’s new one, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, is nevertheless an extraordinary piece of work. Lee possesses the gift of transforming polemic into art. The cold facts of the ongoing devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina are given human warmth in interviews with displaced New Orleans residents and footage of the region.

The first half of If God Is Willing aired last night on HBO; the second half can be seen tonight. It includes about an hour dealing with a more recent, blow for New Orleans and vicinity: the British Petroleum oil spill. Tune in, perhaps, for Brad Pitt’s fulmination against the oil company (Pitt, a New Orleans homeowner, has helped the region with his Make It Right organization), but stick around for the painful, brave testimony and eloquence of many of your fellow citizens.

Both parts of If God Is Willing will repeat for the rest of the month and into September.