Thursday, February 22, 2024

Spike Lee, a unique look and voice for over 30 years

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Tony Vaughn
Tony Vaughn
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Cannes jury president, American director Spike Lee will bring to the festival his insight that has stood out in American cinema for more than 30 years, demanding and entertaining, and has paved the way for many African American artists.

He said back last March that Cannes would “always hold an important place in (the heart)” of the 64-year-old director, because the festival was the first to offer him, from his first feature film, the recognition of the environment. By selecting “Nola Darling Do Whatever She Wants” in Directors’ Week, in 1986.

It was a small movie, shot in two weeks in the heat of the summer of 1985 in black and white with his grandmother’s savings, among other things. But the explosion caused by NOLA is still being felt today.

With this first feature, awarded at the Festival de Cannes (Young Prize), “breaking the glass ceiling” for blacks in cinema “and opening the doors for everyone who came after him”, assures Michael Genet, actor and screenwriter, author of the screenplay “She Hate Me” (2004) ).

Black director Ryan Coogler Won’t Be What He Is Today With +Black Panther + If Spike Lee Didn’t Do What He Did, follows who won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Adaptation for “BlacKkKlansman”. So far, Spike Lee has had to earn an honorary Oscar, out of competition, in 2016.

Shelton Jackson Lee, born in Georgia in 1957, grew up in Brooklyn, the Fort Green neighborhood, where his production company offices, 40 acres and a mule, still exist.

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A young man with a determined look from behind his glasses, played the shy courier Mars Blackmon in “Nola”.

“He was conservative, but I called him a man of the idea,” said Herbert Eichelberger, a professor of film at Clark University in Atlanta who Spike Lee describes as his mentor.

“From the beginning, he was a wonderful storyteller,” said the teacher, who thought he was destined to produce documentaries. But Spike Lee wouldn’t come there until 1997 with the Oscar-nominated “4 Little Girls” and many others followed.

In the meantime, he will have emphasized that his cinema, which is often political with films like “Do the Right Thing”, “Jungle Fever” or “Malcolm X”, was produced far from Hollywood to remain the distribution leader, and is widely open for blacks. Actors and Editing.

– Stay awake –

“One day, I asked him why he bothered to write,” Michael Genet recalls. He replied: I am a writer first.

However, even if he did not have much success, this fan of the New York Knicks basketball team, despite everything, is considered a key manager in the United States. “When we got back from Cannes[in1986][Nola Darling]came out in New York and I couldn’t walk the streets anymore,” recalls actor John Canada Terrell.

He got a boost when in 1987 Nike commissioned him to produce a series of advertising spots for Air Jordan shoes. These black and white mini films, featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee, who are back as Mars Blackmon, will change sports marketing forever.

As a set of projects, he will shoot websites for different brands, as well as music videos. And also more classic films, such as “Inside Man” (2006), a thriller that remains his biggest hit at the box office.

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But he remains deeply attached to his independence and stays on the track, at 64, with his black American community background. ‘BlacKkKlansman’, who previously won the Grand Prix at Cannes before the Oscars, evokes the true story of a black man who infiltrated the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan.

With “Da 5 Bloods,” released on Netflix in 2020, it evokes the central role of African Americans in all the conflicts in which the United States is involved, a contribution that is often overlooked or minimized, which has never favored their liberation.

“Between 1985 and today, day and night,” he said of the presence of blacks in the cinema in January 2018 on the Viceland channel program “Desus & Mero.” “But we can’t be complacent. It’s not just about making a movie. We need to get to these key positions to have a say in what’s going on.”

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