"Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant s@*t to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother f@*k him and John Wayne.”
- Lyrics from Fight the Power by Public Enemy
Thus via the music of Public Enemy and images and story courtesy of Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing, one of the great films of the latter part of last century, confronted white mainstream culture with a hip hop strident Black perspective and established one of the most distinctive filmmaking voices in American cinema. And what an angry, uncompromising, entertaining voice it is... Since the groundbreaking incendiary culture clash of 1988's Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee's body of work has carved out an important space for stories of black experience and shared them into the wider mainstream of not only American culture but also internationally.
The name of his company 40 Acres and a Mule - referring to the promise made to former enslaved black farmers - set the tone of Lee’s mission: to surface the Black American experience and project it onto the wider public. His films have ranged from the interracial/cultural relationships of Jungle Fever to the celebration of jazz culture in Mo’ Better Blues. From melancholic, semi-autobiographical comedy-dramas about the African-American family in Crooklyn, to biopics of Black activist Malcolm X and hard hitting documentaries such Four Little Girls and Until the Levee Breaks. All the time Lee has engaged film audiences in the culture and politics of Black American experience whilst providing an important platform for Black talent in front and behind the camera.
With his new film Lee shows no sign of quietening down: BlacKkKlansman is a hugely entertaining full frontal assault on Trump’s America through the prism of the extraordinary true 1970s story of a black detective who infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan. To complement the film’s opening throughout August we'll be revisiting four films from Spike Lee's extraordinary body of work as well as welcoming him on Mon 20 Aug, via satellite, for a preview and Q&A of BlacKkKlansman.