I love New Orleans. I fell in love with the city as a little girl, just by reading stories set there. I watched in agony as Hurricane Katrina approached, prayed with friends that the city would be spared and wept when the levees broke and destroyed so many lives. I was given the opportunity to research and fact-check the city online post-Katrina, followed by two amazing, transcendent trips to NOLA in 2006 and 2007 for the Voodoo Music Fest and then Mardi Gras. I cheered when the Super Bowl was held there with U2 playing at halftime and whooped with ecstatic joy embracing a group of Orleans-loving friends when the Saints won last season. New Orleans is at once languorous and vital, seductive, dangerous, joyous, profound, sacred, nasty, naughty, glorious. She is the Holy of Holies, full of magic and mystery, charm and force; fierce and exuberant.

New Orleans is a venerable and voluptuous crucible of America–flavored and shaped by founders and immigrants, willing or forced–now being abruptly re-formed through nature’s forces, followed by man’s inadequate response and greed. Luisa Dantas spent five years creating The Land of Opportunity, a documentary that shows through the eyes of those intimately involved—like an urban planner, immigrant workers, public housing residents, activists, journalists, students–that what happened in New Orleans post-Katrina, for good and bad, can happen in any city.

New Orleans has always been a microcosm of America, what Obama called “a quintessentially American city.” Post-Katrina, New Orleans exposed our (lack of) disaster preparedness, along with illuminating flawed public housing policies; immigration, labor, class and race issues; food security and urban gardening; grassroots political activism; celebrities and politicians; our lack of self-care; the reinvention, hopes and dreams of our populace.

New Orleans midwifed or gave birth to so many aspects of American culture and spirit, and now in the wake of Katrina and most recently BP, the Gulf area has become a lab for renewal and restoration, further highlighted by the disasters in Pakistan and Haiti. Dantas’ documentary The Land of Opportunity provides all of us with the opportunity to study the post-disaster lessons still being discovered and think about the meaning of our cities and our lives, how to cherish them, rebuild them in the wake of devastation, and not lose the vital core of our individuality: the flavor of each neighborhood that makes up a city, each city and area–with people, water and land, flora and fauna–that makes up a country.