Spike Lee, an effectively controversial filmmaker


Spike Lee
Date: 
Wed, 1957-03-20

*Spike Lee was born on this date in 1957. He is an African American filmmaker, writer, actor, and producer.

From Atlanta, Georgia, Sheldon Jackson Lee (his name at birth) is the son of jazz composer Bill Lee and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Lee graduated from John Dewey high school and majored in communications at Morehouse College, where he directed his first Super-8 films. In 1978, he enrolled in New York University’s Graduate Film School. While attending these two schools, he met future collaborators, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and co-producer Monty Ross.

Lee’s master’s thesis, the short subject Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads earned him the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Student Award. His first feature film was She’s Gotta Have It (1986), a character study about the love life of a modern Black woman made on a $175,000 budget. Lee wrote, produced, directed, and edited the film and played a key-supporting role, setting up a career-long pattern of his style of involvement. His next film, centered on his experiences at Morehouse, was School Daze (1988).

The well-known Howard Beach incident, in which a Black man was chased and killed by rampaging white youths, was the inspiration for Lee’s third feature, Do the Right Thing (1989). Almost all of his next films dealt with issues of race and racism in the modern United States, sometimes with honest and justifiable fury Jungle Fever (1991) occasionally with magic and ironic humor Crooklyn (1994) and Get on the Bus (1996). With the notable exception of his film Malcolm X (1992), many of Lee’s later works received mixed reviews. Some observers complained about the excessive length of his films.

Others criticized his perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes, especially the Jewish characters in Mo’ Better Blues (1990) and the Italian-Americans in Summer of Sam (1999). Still others have condemned his treatment of his female characters. Lee mentioned what he saw as Hollywood’s anti-Black bias, noting that, while Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and his documentary 4 Little Girls (1997) all received Academy Award nominations, he was continually denied an Oscar. His father contributed music to She’s Gotta Have It and Mo’ Better Blues, and others; his sister, Joie, played major roles in several productions; and his brother, David Charles Lee, was the still photographer.

His films are known for his uncompromising, provocative approach to controversial subject matter. His recent films have included directing The Kings of Comedy (2001) Jim Brown, All American, 25th Hour, and Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (2002) (segment "We Wuz Robbed"). Sucker Free City, (TV) She Hate Me (2004), "Miracle's Boys," (mini) TV Series (6 episodes) and "Sucker Free City" (2005) TV Series. currently; The Night Watchman (pre-production) and All the Invisible Children (2006) (filming).

Reference:
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Lee, Spike