Spike Lee express course: 3 main films of the African American director

Spike Lee has long been recognised as an outstanding directorial figure and the most important African American film director. He calls his films “joints”, yes, like the roll-ups with marijuana. He’s got his own recognisable ‘handwriting’ and a certain set of favourite themes about which Lee talks on the screen and in real life. It’s not a surprise that his new film, BlacKkKlansman, was one of the most anticipated films of the year. We discuss 3 of his major films to give you an express course on his filmography.

blackkklansman spike lee

‘She’s Gotta Have It’, 1986

Spike Lee ‘s full-length debut was a low-budget black-and-white comedy with a feminist theme. The main character of the film is an African-American artist Nola, who wants to freely express her thoughts, her body and her sex life. She is dating three men at the same time and does not want to enter a monogamous relationship with any of them. However, men turn out to be much more interested in monogamy and try to incline the girl to it.

Four Little Girls, 1997

Spike Lee is equally good at films of various genres, so his entry into documentary films was also a success. The film is about an explosion at a Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan members planted dynamite under the steps of the church. More than 20 little girls were injured in the explosion and another 4 died.

Lee got interested in the story in the 80s but could not bring his plan to life due to the lack of proper experience and funds. The director started with an investigation and first wanted to make a feature film, however, decided that the documentary would work better. For Four Little Girls he interviewed the parents of the victims and used footage of the chronicles, photos and newspapers. The film was another strong story about racism and violence in the director’s filmography. He even got nominated for an Oscar for it.

BlacKkKlansman’, 2018

Spike Lee ‘s latest film is a story of Ron Stallworth, a black policeman from Colorado, who decided to join the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his white Jewish workmate Flip Zimmerman. Together they lead a dangerous game, studying the enemy and trying to find out their future plans. The exact time of the action is not indicated, but judging by the entourage, it can be the 60s or the 70s. Ron is the first African American policeman in the history of the police station and he is confronted with the most absurd racist manifestations at work.

BlacKkKlansman is a straightforward statement against the current US President Donald Trump’s rule. A strong ending with disturbing documentary chronicles of the unrest and racist activists leaves a lot of food for thought. Had these fragments been part of the feature films, they would have passed in the category of dystopia. It seems that this topic burns Spike Lee ‘s heart.

Have you seen any of these films?

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Text: Irina Gorskaia

Image: IMDb

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