When London’s Picturehouse Central announced ‘An Audience with Spike Lee’, I booked tickets straight away. The iconic American film director, producer, writer and actor was in town as part of the ‘Spike is 60’ Festival, a series of movie screenings across the U.K displaying Lee’s well-known and also his less recognised work. Famous titles such as ‘Malcolm X’, ‘Do The Right Thing’ and ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ were inevitably going to be discussed throughout the Q & A segment of the event, in addition to his special partnership with Denzel Washington, whom I recently saw ‘In Conversation at the National Theatre.’
Check out my blog post here to find out more- https://clalaland.com/2017/02/09/denzel-washington-in-conversation/
Eager Spike fans filled the sold out auditorium, sipping on free cans of rum & coke.
Lee was greeted by an enthusiastic standing ovation and the event opened with a screening of his latest political short, ‘The Clown with the Nuclear Codes’. What became evident throughout the evening, was Lee’s resistance towards the current U.S President, sarcastically referred to as ‘Agent Orange’. Those who know Spike Lee, will already be aware of his outspoken tendencies, particularly on racial inequality in Hollywood. This event was no exception, as he strongly conveyed his fears for the future of the U.S.A, gentrification and the overall global landscape.
Despite his small frame and large snap back hat covering his eyes, Lee was highly capable of commanding a room and generously gave us his time for over two hours. He discussed his humble beginnings and experiences during his thirty years in the film business. The session proved to be very inspiring for movie makers in the audience, including a thirteen-year-old mega fan (accompanied by his parents) who sought his wise advice;
“Parents kill dreams- always do what YOU love”.
Many questioned the state of the movie industry, given the enormous popularity of streaming sites such as Netflix and the power of the television industry at present. Interestingly, Lee announced that he will soon be releasing a Netflix series adaptation of his very own ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ in the Autumn of this year and commented on how fantastic work was being produced through these mediums. He also added, however, “There is nothing like seeing a film in a real movie theatre- you can never experience it in the same way on a tiny smart phone screen”.
As he continues to celebrate his milestone birthday this year, Lee was quick to comment that after years of speaking his mind, he has now learnt to pick his battles. Some famous encounters with Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood made for some interesting listening, as members of the audience were ordered to put phones away entirely. Security guards were on hand to ensure this rule was obeyed. Perhaps he feels that the less he says publicly, the more impact he can make through expressing his views through his work.
I thoroughly enjoyed the session but would have been curious to hear about his experiences working on music documentaries such as 2012’s ‘Bad 25’. In my opinion, Lee captures musicians in a very truthful and affectionate way and his use of music (hip hop in particular) in his own movies is unparalleled. Coming from a musical family, Lee shows a great understanding of music and how to use it effectively on screen. I hope we will see more of this from him in the future.
At the end of the Q & A session, audience members were offered the opportunity to participate in a book signing with the prestigious guest. Many of us queued for an extra hour for this privilege, again showing Spike’s great commitment to his fans.
Spike Lee created his own space so he could effectively be honest and tell the stories he wanted to tell, whether that be the stories of his childhood neighbourhoods or of legendary human rights activists. He has certainly made a huge mark on the movie industry and I have no doubt, he will continue to trail-blaze in the years to come.
For more information on the ‘Spike is 60’ Festival and screening details, please visit; http://www.weareparable.com/portfolio/spike-is-60/
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