Spike Lee has directed, written, produced, and acted in dozens of films that present an expansive, nuanced, proudly opinionated, and richly multifaceted portrait of American society. As the only African-American filmmaker ever to establish a world-class career, Lee has paid acute attention to the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities. But white men and women also play important roles in his movies, and his interest in class, race, and urban life hasn t prevented his films from ranging over broad swaths of the American scene in stories as diverse as the audiences who view them. His defining trait is a willingness to raise hard questions about contemporary America without pretending to have easy answers; his pictures are designed to challenge and provoke us, not ease our minds or pacify our emotions. The opening words of his 1989 masterpiece Do the Right Thing present his core message in two emphatic syllables: Wake up! Spike Lee s America is a vibrant and provocative engagement not only with the work of a great filmmaker, but also with American society and politics.
David Sterritt is Chair of the National Society of Film Critics and Professor at Columbia University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Acknowledgements viii Introduction: Challenging Questions, No Easy Answers 1 1 The Early Joints 13 2 The Right Thing and the Love Supreme 41 3 Deeper into Politics 90 4 Brownstones in the Nabe, Projects in the Hood 117 5 Women and Men, Blacks and Whites 135 6 Crime, War, Miracles 167 Epilogue: Expanding Horizons 190 Notes 194 Filmography 203 References 229 Index 245