A Sit Down with Spike

Simply stated, Spike Lee is a film legend.  In every sense of the word, his movies and documentaries are spellbinding.  Whether it’s the story of a young woman running away from commitment, of college of black kids at an HBCU, or of real survivors, you feel the emotion, you love the people, and you understand where they’re coming from.  It’s the presentation that gets us – the camera angles, the acting, and the soundtrack combined with a storyline like no other and in case you’ve been aching for a Spike Lee movie, then today, the release of “Red Hook Summer,”  is certainly your lucky one!

Arionne Alyssa: What was your inspiration behind “Red Hook Summer”?

Spike Lee: To tell a story.  I hadn’t done a film since 2008.  The last one was “Miracle at St. Anna.”  I did documentaries, but not a feature film so I got with the great novelist, James McBride, and this is what we came up with.

Arionne Alyssa: In every movie you create, you tackle tough issues.

Spike Lee: Not every film.

Arionne Alyssa: Ok.  Not every one, but they could sometimes be made into either a documentary or a fictional story.  How do you choose what type if film to make?

Spike Lee: It really depends.  For example, I could have made a narrative about what happened with Hurricane Katrina but for me, instead of having actors, I wanted to talk to people who had lost their families, lost their homes, who were swimming in the water.  It truly depends on what the story is.

Arionne Alyssa: Your movies are so revolutionary because they really evoke raw emotions from people.  In the film, Bishop Enoch’s character may have done some bad thing.

Photo by LHC Photography

Spike Lee: May?

Arionne Alyssa: Well, he did some very bad things!  You could have easily made him a real villain but instead, you humanized him and really made the viewer feel bad for him. Why did you want to show him in that light?

Spike Lee: What you’re talking about is a testament to the acting of Clarke Peters.  If I were stupid enough to cast someone of lesser talent, you would have hated him, but Clark’s too talented.  He has too much humanity, too much craft, too much love, too much heart, to give that type of depiction.

Arionne Alyssa: When Bishop Enoch talks to Flik at the end of the movie, he acknowledges that the allegations against him are true but explains that he’s reformed.  However, we live in a culture where reformation is never believed. In your opinion, do you believe people that commit serious acts of violence or abuse can really be reformed?

Spike Lee: It depends on the crime, but I do believe in redemption.

Arionne Alyssa: True, everybody has to seek redemption.

Spike Lee: Not everybody!  You keep using the word “every.”  You shouldn’t do that!  Everybody’s different.

Arionne Alyssa: You’re right, you’re right!  Every person is an individual.  A lot of younger people tend to stray away from “the church” is the idea of hypocrisy and they feel that they’re being judged. With those factors possibly driving Gen Y away from religion as a whole, what could churches do to appeal to a younger generation?

Spike Lee: I can’t answer that question. James McBride [Co-Screenwriter & Co-Producer] would be a better person to answer that.  James grew up in the church.  In fact, his parents founded the church that you see in the film.  It’s called the New Brown Memorial Church.

Arionne Alyssa: You’ve been making hit films for over 25 years.  From “She’s Gotta Have It” to “Red Hook Summer,” has your approach to movie making & directing changed?

Spike Lee: Oh, it has definitely changed.  Just look at them both.  It’s twenty plus years of change.  I’m a better storyteller.  I teach my students that great directors are great storytellers.

Arionne Alyssa: Every director likes to create a certain atmosphere.

Spike Lee: What word did you just say? [laughs]  Every?

Arionne Alyssa: Oh, I didn’t even notice! [laughs] Must be my favorite word! Well, some directors like to create a different atmosphere on set.  Towards the end of the movie, you seemed to really have fun playing with the kids and enjoying the staff. What is a Spike Lee set like?

Spike Lee: Very professional, but at the same time, very loose and people have fun.  Not fun to the point that it affects what we’re doing.  Nobody’s wilding out though.  We don’t allow that.  And, if somebody’s phone rings while the camera is rolling, that’s 50 bucks that goes to my kids’ college fund.

Arionne Alyssa: Nice!  That’s a way to give back!

Spike Lee: [laughs] Ain’t it?  Their phones shouldn’t be ringing.  Gotta turn those things off.

Arionne Alyssa: So, what else are you working on?  What can we expect after this?

Spike Lee: Right now, Mike Tyson is on Broadway in a one-man show that I directed.  I have a new documentary coming out called “Bad 25,” which is about the making of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album.  It’s the 25th anniversary is coming up August 31st and “Red Hook Summer” opens August 24th so we have to get the word out!

Red Hook Summer is in theaters TODAY!  Go out and show it some opening day love!  For a list of theaters, click here.

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