Officials bungled rebuilding New Orleans' Ninth Ward after Katrina, but the devastated district is sprouting colorful, quirky, elevated homes boasting top-notch materials and solar panels thanks to a massive effort spearheaded by Brad Pitt. The actor is highlighted in Spike Lee's new two-part HBO documentary If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise. "I've had a love for this place for a long time," Pitt explains in the film. "Like many, we couldn't believe the ineptitude of the recovery effort."
From the start, he believed If building experts' vision could be "shaped by the community," and the project could "appeal to the kindness of strangers" to "raise a few bucks, we could actually become the catalyst in this hardest hit of areas," he adds. The 50 homes built or under construction are all elevated above the flood water level and have easy access to the roofs. They're worth $150,000, and require commitments from residents up to 30% of their income. One local activist said Pitt is rebuilding the ward "by himself." But "the frustrating thing is there are still tens of thousands of families trying to get back," says Pitt.