movie review by Shelby Jones.
view the digital interview to hear
Spike Lee's thoughts on "Summer of Sam" and his relationships
with Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino. You will need a Real
Player to view digital interview. Real Player can be downloaded free
Lee discusses Summer of Sam, and his
body of work honored in BAM's "Summer of Spike" film retrospective.
Lee discusses guerilla filmmaking versus traditional film school, Matty
Rich and the Black Film Renaissance of the early '90s. by
In the late eighties and early nineties, there was a lot of talk about
the renaissance of a black film movement. Perhaps you remember this [article].
(At this point, Nasser produces a New York Times Magazine, dated July
14, 1991, with a cover story entitled "Theyve Gotta Have Us:
Hollywoods Black Directors". The cover features a group portrait
of Spike with fellow filmmakers, the Hudlin brothers, Ernest Dickerson,
Mario Van Peebles, John Singleton, Charles Lane, and Matty Rich.) Now
that we are at not only at the close of the decade, but at the close of
the century, where did that movement go and where is it headed now?
Well, as far as the movement, its the same thing that happened with
the black exploitation era. [John] Singleton is getting ready to direct
"Son of Shaft". Ernest Dickerson, who I think is a very fine
director, is doing a lot on cable. The Hudlins' last film was "The
Great White Hype" as well as executive producing Millecent Sheltons
film "Ride". Matty Rich, forget about it. Matty Poor.
Tell us how you really feel.
Mario [Van Peebles] is really more into acting now. With Charles Lane,
I liked "Sidewalk Stories". The trick has always been
to build a body of work. Weve been very fortunate to make twelve
filmsin the last thirteen years. Thats what matters, the work. You
know Matty Rich came out talking all that shit. He made ...what was the
"Straight Outta Brooklyn"
That film was him. That was his story, but you can only do that one time.
What was the other one?
Whew. Its unfortunate because when he came out he got bad advice.
He was like "Ive never read a film book, I dont go to
movies, I dont know how to use a camera, Im from the streets!"
And eventually that was reflected in his filmmaking. He knew nothing about
film. He was ignorant to film grammar. That type of thinking, not just
Matty Rich, but where black people equated being being down, being real,
and being black with just being stupid [explative], you know that shit
has got to stop. Where if youre intelligent, and you speak well,
and you go to school, then youre considered [trying to be] white.
[Matty Rich] used to say "Spike Lee, he went to college. He went
to college. Im from the streets!" Thats just some ignorant
shit, man. We've got to stop that stuff. Its ignorant.
That brings me to something else. Not too long ago, I was at an independent
film screening. There were two directors on a panel, one had gone to film
school, had received government funding to go to school and for his thesis
films. The other had been at it for almost thirty years, going the guerilla
filmmaking route, securing funds how ever she could and learning from
mistakes as she went along. They ended up in a debate as to which was
the proper approach.
is no debate. No one intelligent has ever said that there is only one
way to do anything. There’s no one way to be a filmmaker. There’s no one
way to be an actor; there’s no one way to be a [Director of Photography].
So anybody that says that the only way to be a film director is to go
to film school is an idiot. As is someone who tells you that you shouldn’t
go to film school and that you should work up from being a [Production
Assistant]. Who are these people to make up these rules? So they were
wasting people’s time if that was a debate; if they think that the route
they went is the only way because that’s just not true.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
When I was in college at Morehouse.
Was there a particular event that led to that decision or was it just
Evolution. I had to choose a major and I chose Mass Communications, took
those classes across the street at Clark College, which is now called
Clark Atlanta University.