Are We Ready For “Red Hook Summer”?

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January 19, 2012 ‐ By Charing Ball

"spike lee"

by Charing Ball

Spike Lee has a new film, Red Hook Summer, premiering at the Sundance Movie Festival, which runs through January 29th. Lee told the New York Times that “it had been too long since I’d done a film, and I couldn’t wait on Hollywood anymore.Too many meetings, too many false starts, too many stuck projects.”

In the same article, Lee revealed that he didn’t bother taking the film to any of the major studios and had opted to financed his latest project on his own, much for the same reason as George Lucas. Likewise he is hoping to walk away from the festival with a distributor. Will Spike and Red Hook Summer get as much of a push when – and if – the film is released later this year? Will folks flood my Facebook timeline with the same urgency to see this film because Lee invested his own money? Will folks debate endlessly about the future of Black cinema if Red Hook Summer bombs at the box office? Probably not. That’s the point that I was making earlier this week in regards to Red Tails. This mad dash to “show Hollywood” that we could be good consumers has  dulled the conversation on why we haven’t been out here supporting independent Black cinema.

But let’s not rehash that debate again. Instead I am more curious if we as a country are emotionally ready for a film, which has Lee reprising his role as Mookie and is said to be a sort of follow up to “Do the Right Thing?

There are no clips or a trailer for the new Spike Lee Joint as Lee wants to keep this one under wraps.  However, published reports suggest that this film chronicles the gentrification of Brooklyn New York. And according to the synopsis of the story, which had been co-penned by Lee and James McBride (Miracle at St. Anna):

“When his mom deposits him at the Red Hook housing project in Brooklyn to spend the summer with the grandfather he’s never met, young Flik may as well have landed on Mars. Fresh from his cushy life in Atlanta, he’s bored and friendless, and his strict grandfather, Enoch, a firebrand preacher, is bent on getting him to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Only Chazz, the feisty girl from church, provides a diversion from the drudgery. As hot summer simmers and Sunday mornings brim with Enoch’s operatic sermons, things turn anything but dull as people’s conflicting agendas collide. Playfully ironic, heightened, yet grounded, Spike Lee’s bold new movie returns him to his roots, where lovable, larger-than-life characters form the tinderbox of a tight-knit community. A story about the coexistence of altruism and corruption, Red Hook Summer toys with expectations, seducing us with the promise of moral and spiritual transcendence.”

It has been 23 years since Lee’s groundbreaking film, Do the Right Thing, aggressively illustrated the very real realities of a racially and ethnically divided America. It was the film that garnered Lee the label of Angry Black filmmaker.  In the film, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, N.Y would act as a microcosm of America in which a mix of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Italian-Americans and Koreans lived and worked and sometimes played together.  I hadn’t watched Do the Right Thing in over a decade, but I remember it being both groundbreaking and inflammatory.

From the first few scenes of Rosie Perez feverishly dancing over Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” to the scene in which Radio Raheem, a towering young Black man with Love and Hate tattooed on each hand, gets choked out by the police for refusing to turn down his ghetto blaster at request of Sal, the Italian American pizza shop owner to the powerful final scene when  Mookie throws a trash can into Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, the entire film served as reminder that despite our best efforts to co-exist peacefully together, there lingers inevitable chaos. A chaos that has resulted from our inability to deal with and address issues around race and power.

No better landscape in the flick illustrates that more than the scene where five characters, all belonging to different racial and ethnic groups, turn directly to the camera and furiously spout off a laundry list of racial slurs, stereotypes and generalizations, ultimately leaving us, the viewers, wondering what just hit them and yet scratching our heads, wondering about if the stereotypes are exceedingly untrue than why do we still hold on to them?

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  • Sue

    I’m ready!

  • Love_Sexy

    Not a fan of Spike Lee but I wish him the best with getting his movie out to the public.

  • Gmarie

    If you promote it, the people WILL rally behind it. They’d better, with the energy they’ve spent rallying AGAINST Tyler Perry. This sounds like a promising plot line, I’m interested in seeing it. But again I cannot stress enough how much we need to begin self promoting our projects, making sure WE know about them so that we can support them. I urge madamenoire and any other media outlet geared towards the black consumer to keep us informed…on something not relating to the Kardashians.

  • Pingback: Are we ready for a sequel to ‘Do the Right Thing?’ | POLITICAL MOSAIC

  • LadyLark

    Love Hate: they weren’t tatted, they were 3 or 4 finger gold rings.

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  • Lola21

    Yea Mookie and Radio Raheem !

  • naija queen

    Spike Lee joints raised me!

    • Madametroisaka

      Damn Skippy!

    • Redvelvet321

      ditto!

  • Fasho

    I so can’t wait to see this. I would rather see this than Red Tails. I believe Lucas played the I am a rich white man card trying to save black cinema to fill his own pockets. We do whatever we are told to do. Like you said if Lee said we have to support our own, no one is trying to hear that. He would probably have to get the likes of Jay Z to put a seal of approval for people to go see this.

    • Ms_Sunshine9898

      George Lucas has a black wife so she probably helps him relate to the black experience. So what if the man is white, if he can put race aside to find inspiration in black history, then what’s the problem? If more white people cared enough about black history enough to actually want to make more movies with an all black cast, more black actors and actresses would get a chance to have their shine.  Furthermore, the article said clearly that Spike Lee is keeping his own movie under wraps by choice. I can’t support a movie I don’t know about that he taking to a festival where he looking for “some white studio” to distribute. Pariah is a black movie coming out and many black people want to see that. We always want to see good movies made by our people. Hmmm, think about that. . . You’re worried about the wrong thing. . .

      • Love_Sexy

        I did not know G. Lucas had a black wife I thought he was just dating her?………Anyway I agree with your comment.