Spike Lee On Why His Films About Social Injustice Stand The Test Of Time

The filmmaker also shared why he feels doubtful about the future justice for victims of police violence.
The director recently opened up to The Daily Beast about the historical significance of art imitating life.
The director recently opened up to The Daily Beast about the historical significance of art imitating life.
Tyler Kaufman via Getty Images

Spike Lee says America’s issues related to police brutality heavily influenced his perspective as a filmmaker.

While promoting his Netflix original film “Rodney King” in commemoration of the 25 anniversary of the L.A. Riots, Lee opened up to The Daily Beast on how the history of other civil disturbances have inspired some of his past projects, including his 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.”

“For me, putting it in historical perspective, that’s not the first uprising in L.A. You had Watts,” he explained. “You had Detroit. You had the hot summer of ’68. There was the uprising when Dr. King got assassinated. And then, most recently, you had Ferguson. People reach a boiling point.”

“That’s where the whole thing came for ‘Do the Right Thing.’ I didn’t make that up. People reach a boiling point.”

Set in the Brooklyn neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Lee’s 1989 drama highlights the events leading up to racial tensions between local residents on the hottest day of the summer.

Lee went on to add that the 2014 death of New York-resident Eric Garner resembled a scene from “Do the Right Thing,” in which the film’s character, Radio Raheem is choked to death by police.

Previously, Lee attributed the character’s tragic story arch to the real-life story of Michael Stewart, who died in 1983 as a result of a police chokehold.

In his Daily Beast interview, Lee said: “When I saw the video of Eric Garner being murdered — allegedly murdered, allegedly strangled to death —I was looking at Radio Raheem,” he said.

As for his thoughts on how the issue of police violence could play out during the Trump Administration, Lee feels it’s going to be much more difficult to seek justice.

A lot of people are missing: Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States of America,” Lee said. “And believe me, it’s going to be much harder to bring any [charges] against cops.”

To underscore his point, Lee went on cite the Attorney General’s April comments about New York City’s gang murders being the result of NYPD’s being merciful towards it stance on crime.

“And Jeff Sessions the other day said the NYPD’s too ‘soft on crime,’” he said.

Read more of Spike Lee’s interview here.

Go To Homepage

Before You Go

Classic Spike Lee Joints

Popular in the Community