SPIKE LEE – Unafraid and Unfiltered
Most of us know Spike Lee as the Brooklyn film director with iconic glasses, but there is so much to uncover from his distinguished career as a filmmaker and advocate for social change.
Over three decades as an auteur provocateur, the African American director doesn’t shy away from controversy. While we’ve known him as the quintessential black filmmaker, who has directed over 20 feature films, among them, Inside Man, a bank robbery action film, and Malcolm X, which follows the life of the iconic black activist. The success of Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman, which won the Cannes Grand Prix last year, has been astounding. Part of this success is due to its cultural relevance, considering it was released a year after the far right rally in Charlottesville, and is based on a memoir by Ron Stallworth, which follows the first black detective inside the Ku Klux Klan.
The film’s renonwed director, Spike Lee, was born in Atlanta, though the 61-year-old director has lived in Brooklyn since he was a child, growing up in Cobble Hill, then studying film at New York University, where today he is the director of the graduate film program. Alongside continuing to make films, he runs his own production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. Having worked with top African American actors, like Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington, Lee has been called a black genius by The New York Times for his sheer ability to get through to people. “I think it is very important that films make people look at what they’ve forgotten,” he famously said.
His recent Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, is based on his own 1980s film, which follows a non-monogamous feminist woman in search for love—while keeping her independence. Unconventional themes, too, are peppered throughout his musical, School Daze, a film about discrimination, and the critically-acclaimed feature Do the Right Thing, which explores racial tensions against African Americans in New York City.
Of course, we can’t ignore his iconic style. Lee is known for wearing baseball caps—mostly his beloved New York Yankees—sportswear, and Gucci blazers. And who can forget his chunky spectacles? Lee’s eyewear is always bold and heavy, but his iconic eyewear ranges from orange-rimmed specs by French designer Jacques Durand, to tortoiseshell glasses by Cazal eyewear from Germany.
In our screen-based culture, he tells tales about human rights and civil rights activists to an audience who might not see them presented in such an illustrious way. Lee is a trailblazer of doing things his own way and getting recognized because of it; true to his roots, he is experimental, inspirational, and creative. As the legend himself once said: “As a writer I want everybody to get a chance to voice their opinions. If each character thinks that they’re telling the truth, then it’s valid. Then, at the end of the film, I leave it up to the audience to decide who did the right thing.”