How Spike Lee Changed Everything—Again

Paste's 2015 Film Person of the Year

Movies Features Spike Lee
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“We’re all tired about white-man this, white-man that. Fuck dat! It’s on us.”
—Spike Lee, 1992

Spike Lee  is our 2015 Film Person of the Year, and he and I go way back. Not personally, you understand—our interview for this article was the first time we had ever spoken for more than sixty seconds or so. But for many a budding filmmaker of my generation, those in high school and/or college when his first few movies came out, especially those of us especially interested in, or passionate about, African American art and culture, Lee was a revelation, and will always occupy a special place in our hearts. It’s difficult to imagine, but when Lee burst onto the scene, NO black filmmaker was making films for a wide audience. Not one. And he wasn’t just any filmmaker—his films bristled with intelligence, technical audacity, deep thoughtful characters, provocative situations, lush cinematography, gorgeous scores. In 1989, Do the Right Thing, especially, felt like a revolution in filmmaking—and maybe even in society at large.

spike-lee-cover.jpgIn 2015, the original black auteur has done it again. Not only is Chi-Raq the best film of the year, it’s also the most vital, the most urgent, the most—let’s just say it—important. It’s more than just a modern retelling of Aristophanes’ classic Lysistrata (in which a group of women stop a war by going on a sex strike) in the modern day hood. It’s more than just a tour de force of rhymed couplets that shouldn’t work, but do. It’s more than just a heartbreaking tale of real people trying to make a sense out of the madness surrounding them. It’s more than just a blistering series of broadsides aimed straight at many of the political sacred cows in our culture. It’s a moment when, along with all the other criticisms offered, one of our most gifted filmmakers stands up in the middle of his own people and shouts (as his characters often do), “WAKE UP.” It’s a moment of staggering importance.

When Lee and I speak, I figure it’s a good thing to start with some sports talk, given his passion for the Knicks, the Yankees, and our mutual favorite soccer team, Arsenal. And I mention our common Georgia roots, and we talk a bit about the brilliance of actor Walton Goggins. But then I really want to know what he thinks of the importance of this film.

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We got the power
And the knowledge to move ’em
And still rock
A super song for the cause so…
—Public Enemy, “B Side Wins Again”

Paste:It’s not every year that the most important movie and the best movie are the same, but this year Chi-Raq is both.
Lee: I want to thank you for that. You’re one of the few that feel that way, so thank you very much.

Paste: I think Richard Brody and I are the two that have said that, so that’s good company to be in. Obviously you were trying to make a good movie, but were you intentionally trying to make an important movie too? Which was pre-eminent in your mind?
Lee: We knew it was going to be an important film. But the goal that my co-writer Kenneth Willmott and I had in mind was that we wanted to save lives with this film. Whether it was going to win Best Picture or whatever, that was no one’s concern. Our concern was to save lives.

Paste: And that’s possible through film, I think. Things like this happen because of cultural change, and a movie can accomplish that. Right? Changing minds and hearts?
Lee: I’ve always been a firm believer that great art can change lives. I’m going to insist on believing that. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say my films have changed their lives already. You know, I went to Morehouse, and in 1988 when my film School Daze came out, people have come up to me and said, “Before that film I had never thought about going to college. I never knew there was such a thing as a black college.” I’ve heard that directly from people. And I firmly believe that in the future, young brothers are going to tell me, “Spike, I was going down that path. And I saw Chi-Raq, and it changed my lifeline.” I believe that.

Paste: That’s beautiful. And I agree with you that that’s going to happen.

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One of the most remarkable elements of Lee’s spectacular career, which includes at least four classics, and probably half a dozen more near classics, is that his films always seem to force audiences to confront issues that they’d be more comfortable avoiding. From female sexual empowerment in She’s Gotta Have It to intra-racial, skin tone based prejudice in School Daze, to the lure of interracial desire in Jungle Fever, and in as many other examples as he has films, Lee has a knack for forcing your gaze onto the messy corners of your own inconsistent mind. And Chi-Raq sits squarely in that tradition, but in a surprising way to many.

Police brutality is a problem in this country. Disturbed people having easy access to guns is a problem in this country. But a culture of African Americans killing African Americans is a problem in this country, too. And that’s a message a white filmmaker couldn’t have brought to the table. That’s an issue that many black filmmakers couldn’t have brought to the table. But this director has spent a career telling uncomfortable truths to people, has spent a career advocating for African Americans, has unassailable credibility. Spike Lee might have been the only director in the world who could have made this film.

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It’s weak to speak and blame somebody else
When you destroy yourself
—Public Enemy, “Welcome to the Terrordome”

Paste: You have a lot on your mind in this movie; there’s a lot of issues you tackle. But to me, one of the bravest parts of the movie is that you, as an African American, included and even emphasized in your list of things that were wrong, black on black violence. I think it took a black man of your stature to stand up and say, “We shouldn’t be killing each other.” It’s kind of that “Nixon goes to China” moment. Because you are who you are, you can carry that message.
Lee: Let me rephrase that. I wasn’t standing up against the black community; I’m standing with them. I’m part of the black community. And in my opinion, it’s not doing anyone any good if we remain silent about the ills that are confronting our community. Going back to School Daze, I’ve been criticized for airing dirty laundry. But the truth is the truth. And with my scruples, I cannot be vocal only when the trigger is pulled by a white finger. You ask these parents. It doesn’t matter who killed their child, whether it was a cop or a person of color or whoever. They’re still burying their child. And I would not be able to sleep at night if I was only vocal about Trayvon Martin and all those people. We’re doing this to ourselves. Tyshawn Lee, a nine year old, was executed on Chicago’s South Side because of his father allegedly being in a gang.

Paste: And that’s something new; it didn’t used to be that way, where kids were intentionally targeted.
Lee: Back in the day, the gangs had codes. And part of the code that was never broken was that you did not kill a child. And if you happened to kill a child, you had to turn yourself into the authorities, or you would be taken care of. Now a lot of the elders have been locked up under the RICO act, and no one is really stepping up in leadership, because under RICO, you’re automatically going to prison. So it’s anarchy, chaos, and mayhem, and the codes are no longer honored.

Paste: In Chi-Raq, you’re not only speaking to the black community; you’re speaking to an entire climate in America.
Lee: Chi-Raq speaks to everybody. 90 Americans die every day due to gun violence. 90! And the myth that gun violence only happens in Chi-Raq or Killadelphia or Bodymore, Murderland, or South Central LA is a lie. Gun violence affects all Americans, everywhere. It’s a disgrace that 90 Americans die every day due to gun violence. That number could be much smaller if common sense gun laws were put into effect. But the fact is, the politicians are in cahoots with the NRA and the gun manufacturers, and they’re also getting the loot from them too. They’re in cahoots, and they’re getting the loot! Most Americans, and this has been documented, even staunch NRA members, want sensible background checks.

Paste: True.
Lee: But the NRA has hijacked the narrative, and they do so with fear. More than 100,000 guns were sold after the San Bernardino terrorist act. It’s the blind leading the blind, in my opinion. I know Paste is based in the South, but common sense gun laws do not affect people’s Second Amendment rights.

Paste: Also true.
Lee: And again, it affects all Americans. If you’re walking around thinking “It can’t happen here,” you need to wake up.

Paste: Hopefully San Bernardino showed that; it’s not just a big city problem. It’s an everywhere problem.
Lee: I mean, you can’t get any smaller than Sandy Hook.

Paste: Exactly.
Lee: So that’s where we’re at; that’s the state of the union.

Paste: That’s the truth, Ruth.
Lee: I don’t think it’s a stretch, either, to call John Cusack’s character’s sermon a State of the Union address.

Paste: While we’re on that subject, why don’t you give a shout-out to the guy who his character is partially based on. I know you’re passionate about his work.
Lee: Yeah, yeah. Shout out to my main man, the living saint, Father Michael Pfleger, who leads the St. Sabina Faith Community on the South Side of Chicago. People, if you don’t know about Father Michael Pfleger, please Google him (http://saintsabina.org/about-us/our-pastors/senior-pastor-rev-michael-pfleger/rev-pfleger-s-biography.html). He is a great, great American. John Cusack’s character is based on him. So, if you saw Chi-Raq, and you’re scratching your head and asking, “Why is a white preacher up in front of all these black folks?” That’s why. Father Pfleger’s congregation is all black. And he’s been in that church, St. Sabina, for over forty years. A white Roman Catholic priest from Chicago.

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Of course, none of this would have meant much if the story Lee told wasn’t compelling. But it’s more than compelling; it’s spellbinding. And much of that spell comes from the actors he assembled for the project.

All Lee had to do for the lead role in Chi-Raq was to find a woman who might credibly be capable of stopping gang warfare in Chicago—in the memorable words of Samuel Jackson’s one-man Greek chorus, a woman who’s “got a mind like Einstein and a truly luscious behind.” Teyonah Parris has sex appeal to spare in Chi-Raq, but it’s a fierce, brainy, brawny sex appeal. It’s Pam Grier by way of a wide streak of Angela Davis. It’s a testament to the film that we don’t doubt for one minute that she’s not only worth fighting for, but worth NOT fighting for. And let’s not forget the verse-ridden dialogue either. It’s one thing for Samuel Jackson to pop into the picture and recite verse directly to the camera with a gleam in his eye and a broad smile; it’s quite another to speak actual dialogue in verse and not come across as cheesy. Paris tackles the lines with aplomb and is as nimble as a rapper with the rhymes. And her face captures all the righteous anger and defiance of Lee’s masterful film. It’s not an accident that the film’s poster is a closeup of Parris.

And, in a master stroke of casting, he recruited Jennifer Hudson to play a grieving mother. Hudson brings a gravitas, a brutal honesty, almost a majesty to the proceedings. And the role she plays eerily echoes her family history.

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First nothing’s worse than a mother’s pain
Of a son slain in Bensonhurst
Can’t wait for the state to decide the fate
So this jam I dedicate
Public Enemy, “Welcome to the Terrordome”

Paste: Let’s talk about some of your other actors. You really do have a real gift for casting.
Lee: I’ve been very fortunate to have phenomenal casting directors—Robi Reid, Aisha Coley, and now my current casting director Kim Coleman. They’ve all been instrumental in introducing me to people whose talent I was not aware of.

Paste: Teyonah Paris, your lead actress, my goodness. Did they turn you on to her?
Lee: No, I saw her in Dear White People.

Paste: She was great in that movie. And… Jennifer Hudson. When she walked onto the screen, my eyes were already wet. But in the scene where she was wiping the blood off the street -
Lee: Her daughter’s blood.

Paste: Yes, her baby daughter’s blood.
Lee: Her nine year old daughter’s blood. With a bucket, water, and a brush.

Paste: And there’s too much, she just can’t do it. I think that scene would have been powerful with anyone playing it. But with her playing it, not only because she’s such a great actor, but knowing what we know about her personal story, it’s just devastating.
Lee: Her mother, brother and nephew were murdered. In Chicago South Side.

Paste: You’re a deep thinking filmmaker; you’re not someone who makes decisions like these lightly. What do you think about using what we know of an actor outside the film, to advance a purpose within the film?
Lee: Well… just the fact that you said that when she came on the screen, you were crying… I wanted to make this real life. This is not an actress who’s just playing someone whose family member got murdered; this is someone whose mother, brother, nephew got murdered. That’s why I get so mad when people criticize this film and say we trivialize the people who’ve died in Chicago. Why would Jennifer Hudson be a part of a film that made a mockery of her mother’s, brother’s, and nephew’s murder?

Paste: Not to mention all the other parents in the film.
Lee: At the end of the film, there’s a group of women who are not actors. They’re dressed in white. And they’re holding up pictures of their murdered loved ones on posters. Those women are part of a group called Purpose Over Pain. All these women have lost sons or daughters to senseless gun violence. In that scene, I think there are three or four fathers, and fifty mothers who have lost their children. Why would they be a part of a film that made a mockery of their children’s lives? So that criticism is completely unfounded, off-base, and incorrect.

Paste: I feel like most of the people making that criticism have not seen your movie. I know you’re a big fan of Scorsese; this reminds me a bit of all those people protesting The Last Temptation of Christ before it even came out.
Lee: Well, we did assign me a bodyguard! (laughs) Thank God for that!

Paste: But I can’t imagine anyone seeing the movie and thinking you were making light of anything. To me, Spike, it was one of the most powerful things about the movie. It’s like I said about Blue Valentine a few years ago—you feel the filmmaker’s heart breaking along with your own. And I feel like every frame of this movie is full of heartbrokenness. And you’re not someone, in interviews, who come off as a very emotional guy; you’re more cerebral.
Lee: You ought to see me at a Knicks game, baby! (laughs)

Paste: Yeah, that’s true! (laughs) Get Reggie Miller in front of you, and you get emotional real quick!
Lee: You should have seen me at the Giants-Carolina game yesterday!

Paste: But you know what I mean; I’ve never seen you cry in an interview.
Lee: I did cry one time. What’s the guy’s name that does The Actors Studio?

Paste: James Lipton.
Lee: Yeah. I cried in that interview. I was talking about my grandmother.

Paste: But your directorial voice in this movie is not only angry; it’s also heartbroken. It’s a movie with tears in its eyes, it seems to me. I really can’t imagine anyone seeing it and saying you’re making light.
Lee: Well, look, people have their own agendas and there were people in Chicago who felt I wasn’t the right person to direct this film because I wasn’t from Chicago. There’s a whole Chicago-New York dynamic that’s there, too.

Paste: True.
Lee: But we made the film we wanted to make. I stand by this film 100%. I told Mayor Rahm Emanuel in our first and only meeting that he’s going to be on the wrong side of history, and I say the same thing about those critics of the film.

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Lee’s movies are so politically astute and so stylistically intriguing that he’s not discussed very much as an actor’s director. But he’s worked, to great success, with some of the very best actors of our time, including Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Willem Dafoe, Clive Owen, Edward Norton, Walton Goggins, Alfre Woodard, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, Kerry Washington, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

And of course, there are the actors that come back time and again to work with him. He brings back two favorites in Chi-Raq, Angela Bassett and, naturally, Samuel L. Jackson, who makes for possibly the most entertaining—and effective—one man Greek chorus ever created.

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To condition your condition
(We’re gonna do a song)
That you never heard before
Make you all jump along to the education
Brothers gonna work it out
—Public Enemy, “Brothers Gonna Work it Out”

Paste: Let’s talk about Angela Bassett too. I’ve always thought Angela Bassett was born to do classical drama.
Lee: Angela is a product of Yale School of Drama, so she’s done classical drama on the stage. In fact, Angela was also John Turturro’s classmate, and also Roger Smith, who has that great scene where he’s trying to sell her insurance.

Paste: That’s quite a class.
Lee: Yes it is.

Paste: When I met her two years ago, I told her that for two decades, I’d dreamed of casting her in a film version of Medea. Can’t you see her as Medea?
Lee: Yeah! But wait—the Greek version or Tyler Perry’s version? (laughs)

Paste: (laughs) Yeah, not that Medea.
Lee: Not that one.

Paste: And then Samuel Jackson was just a perfect, and inevitable, choice as the Greek chorus.
Lee: My Morehouse brother Samuel Jackson.

Paste: Y’all have quite a history. Everybody talks about the Sweet Dick Willie crew being the Greek chorus of Do the Right Thing, which they are, but Jackson’s character had an aspect of that role as well.
Lee: Well, not so much as Sweet Dick Willie, ML, and Coconut Sid. But you talk about classical Greek chorus, Samuel Jackson was a one man gang, no pun intended, in Chi-Raq. He’s the person that I thought of right away. And he has a very busy schedule, but he wanted to be in the film, he wanted to help me, and he worked it out. So thank you Samuel Jackson, my Morehouse brother, thank you thank you thank you.

Paste: He’s a treasure, and you and Quentin use him better than anybody.
Lee: What he’s saying is very serious subject matter, but his performance made you laugh and cry at the same time.

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Lee is a provocateur, to be sure, but ever since Do the Right Thing, he’s always been unfairly pigeon-holed as a rabble rouser. Denounced by many white critics upon its release as endorsing black mob violence, the film is actually a nuanced examination of a neighborhood, and one that offers no easy answers for the questions it raises. In the Criterion Collection commentary, when Sal famously tells Buggin’ Out that it’s his shop and he decides whose picture goes on the wall, and Buggin’ Out points out that his shop is only in business because of its black clientele, Lee says “Two valid points.” Which they are. Roger Ebert famously wrote of the Do the Right Thing:

“I believe that any good-hearted person, white or black, will come out of this movie with sympathy for all of the characters. Lee does not ask us to forgive them, or even to understand everything they do, but he wants us to identify with their fears and frustrations. Do The Right Thing doesn’t ask its audiences to choose sides; it is scrupulously fair to both sides, in a story where it is our society itself that is not fair.”

Many of Lee’s subsequent films ignited controversies of one type or another as well. And, as many close to him have admitted, he does tend to stir up those fires at times. After all “Spike” is the nickname his mother gave him for being difficult. So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when many people were up in arms about Chi-Raq before anyone had even seen it. It reminded him of how badly some critics had missed the boat on one of his previous films, marginalized at the time but now considered one of his most sophisticated critiques.

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Like a guess I figure you to play some jigaboo
On the plantation, what else can a nigger do

So let’s make our own movies like Spike Lee
Cause the roles being offered don’t strike me
As nothing that the Black man could use to earn
Burn Hollywood burn
Public Enemy, “Burn Hollywood Burn”

Lee: I just hope that the next film I do that’s satire, people will have a better understanding of what satire is. (laughs)

Paste: (laughs) Oh, is there another film of yours that maybe starts with a “B” that you might be thinking of, where people didn’t quite understand what you were doing?
Lee: Well, since you brought it up, the first words of dialogue in Bamboozled are by Pierre Delacroix, played by Damon Wayans, and he looks to the camera, looks to the audience, and tells them the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the word “satire.” I thought I would never had to do that again, but I was fucking wrong. (both laugh) I was wrong! I’m not blaming anybody, but I just think that so many of the Hollywood films are one note, one tone, and when you try to mix shit up, people lose their fucking minds. They can’t comprehend it.

Paste: Well, the way you mix the comedy and the tragedy in this film is something that was done all the time in classic drama. The Greeks did it, Shakespeare did it. Hamlet has some hilarious moments.
Lee: I guess folks haven’t read their Shakespeare. (both laugh)

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As with many of his best films, Chi-Raq plays with the form of film itself. Much as classic Greek drama was presentational in nature, and made no attempt to create the illusion that what was happening onstage was reality, classic Lee films like She’s Gotta Have It and Do the Right Thing not only acknowledge, but announce and revel in their artificiality as films. One of his most famous, most criticized, and most beloved devices is what he calls the double dolly shot, where both the camera and the actor are placed on the same moving dolly, producing a frame where the characters remains still while the world moves around him. It’s completely unnatural—and that’s the point.

Lee’s films also frequently make use of direct camera address, where the characters speak directly to the audience. And his characters often speak in rhythms and patterns that are not reflective of realistic everyday speech. All of those devices are present in Chi-Raq, and they link the film not only to Spike’s earlier work, but to the earlier tradition of classical drama.

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As the rhythm designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhymes
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
—Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”

Paste: I also love Sam’s direct address to the camera. It’s one of the other ways I think you and Greek drama are such a good match. There’s a presentational quality to Greek drama, a breaking of the fourth wall. Many of your films do the same thing.
Lee: The first time we had talking to the camera was way back in She’s Gotta Have It. The very first film. We had it in Do the Right Thing. And one of my favorite moments to the audience is the mirror scene by the great Edward Norton in The 25th Hour. The “Fuck you” scene.

Paste: I saw a press screening of Chi-Raq, with like twelve other journalists there. But I live in a predominantly black neighborhood, and what I really want to do is see that movie surrounded by a racially mixed audience, and see those characters with their twenty foot heads looking straight into the eyes of the audience, including myself, and saying “Wake Up!” It’s so powerful.
Lee: We worked really hard on the script, and I had a great cast, and MMM behind the camera, and Terence Blanchard’s score, and Ruth Carter’s costumes, and Maya Garcia’s choreography, so everyone was committed to doing the best they could possibly do in their own lane. Knowing that the goal was to save lives.

Paste: Speaking of that script, let’s talk about the hip hop influence on it. And by the way, I have to ask, have you seen Hamilton?
Lee: I’ve seen Hamilton six times. Twice Off-Broadway, and four times on Broadway.

Paste: I want you to direct the film version of Hamilton. You would knock it out of the park.
Lee: Well… God willing.

Paste: We need to get you together with Lin-Manuel and make that happen.
Lee: Here’s the thing, though. Kevin and I tried to this six years ago, and that script was called Got to Give it Up. So even in the first version of what would become Chi-Raq, the verse is in it. There’s a lot more verse in that version that in this version. But we were not scared of the verse; hip hop’s been going more than thirty years now. We felt that once the initial shock of the verse wore off, in the opening scene in the club with Sam, and also in the bedroom with Chi-Raq and Lysistrata, that audiences would catch on and be with it. And I’ve really not heard criticism about the verse. People dig it. They weren’t expecting it, but they dig it.

Paste: That’s how I felt. It really takes the language to a different level, and gives you permission to play around with it and make it do unusual things, when it doesn’t have to be realistic.
Lee: It’s heightened realism.

Paste: It gives you permission as an audience member to stop evaluating whether someone would actually talk like this, and just to let the words wash over you.

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And it’s the words in Lee’s movies that are perhaps the most overlooked of his gifts. Despite anything you may not like about his politics or his stylistic choices, it’s simply impossible to deny how interesting it is to hear his characters speak. The speech of his characters combines the earnest, searching, philosophical qualities of Richard Linklater’s, with the street-smart ruggedness and immediacy of Martin Scorsese’s, with the musical and lyrical prodigiousness of Quentin Tarantino’s.

And of course, the most eloquent accusations are the ones that sting the hardest. Lee has endured his share of criticism from Chicagoans (many with political connections and outside agendas) and other self-appointed hood ambassadors. They say the movie is unfair, cartoonish, unrealistic. There are valid criticisms to be made of this film, but the loudest voices aren’t making those sophisticated arguments. They’re bunk; they misunderstand the movie’s basic premise. But they have doubtless had an effect on its box office prospects. Lee, though, is steadfast in his defense of Chi-Raq.

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In a game a fool without the rules
Got a hell of a nerve to just criticize
Every brother ain’t a brother
Cause a Black hand
Squeezed on Malcom X the man
The shootin’ of Huey Newton
From a hand of a Nigger who pulled the trigger
—Public Enemy, “Welcome to the Terrordome”

Lee: Yep, the whole film is heightened realism. I mean, I understand that the gangs in Chicago don’t wear colors the same way the gangs in LA do, red for the Bloods, blue for the Crips, but that doesn’t matter. It helped the whole color scheme of the film to have two groups—either you were purple or you were orange. It’s a shorthand. You don’t have to think long and hard about who’s who—it’s right there.

Paste: As there would be costumes in a stage play. It’s another thing that adds to the heightened realism.
Lee: (laughs) I mean, I can’t fault people for expecting what they were expecting, but this is what Kevin and I wanted to do. This was not going to be a documentary, or some exploitative gangbang shoot-‘em-up on Chicago’s South Side; that would have been defeating the purpose. We don’t want to glamorize this shit. We’re trying to stop it. For us there’s nothing cute or hip about killing people.

Paste: You’ve passionately defended the casting choice of Nick Cannon using some of those same words.
Lee: Several comments have been sent to my social media—Nick is soft, he’s weak, he hasn’t killed anybody, he’s never been to prison. And I’m like, yes! (laughs) I’m glad he hasn’t been to jail, I’m glad he hasn’t killed anybody! He has two beautiful children! I mean, did Robert DeNiro go on a killing spree before he played Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver? These are actors! I mean, to have that type of criteria to choose someone, that’s ridiculous. The worst one was the charge that Nick wasn’t a savage. As if that’s a definition of manhood, or of something to aspire to.

Paste: I loved when you responded to the “savage” label by saying “That’s not who we are.” Because the person saying that is trying to take hold of the narrative of what a black man is.
Lee: A young black man.

Paste: A young black man, yes. And you’re taking the narrative back.
Lee: “I got bodies on me.” There’s nothing commendable about saying you’ve killed somebody. I’m sorry, I’m not going to co-sign on that bullshit. Not doing it.

Paste: Yep.
Lee: A lot of this stuff is environmental and societal. But I’m not going to help glorify it.

Paste: Yeah, just because something is understandable doesn’t mean you don’t still try to lift people up out of it.
Lee: Exactly. Exactly. And I don’t care if motherfuckers get mad at me. That shit’s wrong. And you’re not changing my mind. Because God is on my side with that shit.

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Spike Lee  has defiantly called Chi-Raq “a righteous movie.” It’s as good a description as any. It may be the most important American film since… well, since Do the Right Thing. It’s one of the very best films he’s ever made, a true masterpiece. And in some ways, it’s the film his entire career has prepared him to make. But in the end, “a righteous film” is exactly what Chi-Raq is.

And that’s the triple truth, Ruth.

WAKE UP.

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