It’s been over 30 years since Spike Lee came barrelling out of the gate with his directorial debut, She’s Gotta Have It, the first of countless films helmed by Lee which reclaimed the African-American narrative and gave Lee, an African-American himself, the chance to show audiences what life is like outside of stereotypes.
Since his 1986 debut, Lee has made it his mission to tackle all of the hot-button issues, whether it’s race, social injustice or crimes against humanity, and a string of movies like Malcolm X, 4 Little Girls and Do The Right Thing has made him a critically acclaimed, permanent fixture in Hollywood.
As Lee gears up for the release of his latest endeavour, BlacKkKlansman, a film following the true story of KKK-infiltrator and all-around badass Ron Stallworth, we thought we’d find some of Lee’s most inspiration, real and frank quotes to honour a man who’s been breaking the mould for decades.
1. “I think black people have to be in control of their own image because film is a powerful medium. We can’t just sit back and let other people define our existence.”
By taking the reigns as director, Lee has ensured that African-American representation is both at the forefront and as accurate as possible. Given the climate of America when Lee’s first film debuted, a time when minority groups were barely represented in film (and if they were, usually as a secondary character based on cliché tropes), the progress Lee has made and continues to make is nothing short of inspiring.
2. “There’s a lot of Americans, black and white, who think that we’ve arrived where we need to be and nothing else needs to be done and affirmative action needs to be dismantled.”
I mean, if you think there’s no more work to be done then you’re delusional. Keep talking, Lee…
3. “I don’t think my films are going to get rid of racism or prejudice. I think the best thing my films can do is provoke discussion.”
Ever the realist, Lee hasn’t quite stamped out racism or prejudice (yet), but Jesus, if he hasn’t got people talking about such crucial topics, I dunno who has. I bet 50 bucks BlacKkKlansman will have social media abuzz given the timing of the movie and you know, how fucked America is right now.
4. “A spine to my films that’s become more evident to me is that many are about the choices people make and the reverberations of those choices. You go this way, or that way, and either way, there’s going to be consequences.”
I mean, this is essentially Newton’s Third Law, no? For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Regardless, it’s refreshing that Lee ensures his movies depict actual ramifications of someone’s behaviour and actions, rather than simply letting people get off scot-free despite doing the most reckless “activities” ever.
5. “I think it would be very boring dramatically to have a film where everybody was a lawyer or doctor and had no faults. To me, the most important thing is to be truthful.”
If there’s one thing Spike Lee films aren’t, it’s dull. Malcolm X is one of those rare anomalies where a movie’s running time is over three hours but you’re glued the entire time – even watching it recently, at not one point did I consider reaching for my phone.
I’m picking the same will go for BlacKkKlansman – Lee couldn’t have chosen a better movie to direct if he was looking for flawed human beings. Looking at you, every white supremacist in the movie ever.
Anywho, If you need a good ol’ reminder as to why Lee is an absolute genius, check out the trailer for his latest project below: