Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spike Lee

SPIKE LEE is a notable writer, director, producer, actor, and author who revolutionized both the landscape of independent cinema and the role of black talent in film. Widely regarded as a premiere African-American filmmaker, Lee is a forerunner in the ‘do it yourself’ school of filmmaking.

Spike’s latest endeavor is the follow-up documentary If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, which revisits the recently storm-ravaged GulfCoast region as residents attempt to rebuild in their cities while also demanding assistance and accountability from their political leaders. This film comes on the heels of When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, the groundbreaking first documentary that followed the plight of Americans stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The release of If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise will coincide with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2010.

Lee’s recent theatrical release Miracle at St. Anna is set in 1944 and chronicles the story of four black American soldiers who are members of the US Army as part of the all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Division, trapped behind enemy lines in Tuscany, Italy during World War II. An avid sports enthusiast, Lee also completed a one day 18 camera documentary shoot focusing on NBA standout Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Produced for ESPN, the unique piece is entitled Kobe Doin’ Work. Another recent project, Passing Strange: The Movie – showcases the critically acclaimed Broadway musical, which explores the travels of a young African American musician in search of himself. Passing Strange debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.

Other critical and box office successes have included such films as Inside Man, 25th Hour, The Original Kings of Comedy, Bamboozled and Summer of Sam. Lee’s films Girl 6, Get On the Bus, Do the Right Thing and Clockers display his ability to showcase a series of outspoken and provocative socio-political critiques that challenge cultural assumptions, not only about race, but class and gender identity as well. His debut film, the independently produced comedy She’s Gotta Have It earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film festival in 1986 and set him at the forefront of the Black New Wave in American Cinema. His second feature, the very profitable and critically acclaimed School Daze, helped launch the careers of several young Black actors. Lee’s timely 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, garnered an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film and Director awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Lee’s Jungle Fever, Mo’ Better Blues, Clockers and Crooklyn were also well received by critics and fans alike. His epic drama Malcolm X starring Denzel Washington, received two Academy Award® nominations.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Brooklyn, Lee returned south to attend Morehouse College. After graduation, he returned to Brooklyn to continue his education at New YorkUniversity’s Tisch School of Arts in Manhattan, where he received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in film production. He founded 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, based in the FortGreene section of Brooklyn, where he has resided since childhood.

In addition to his film achievements, Lee has produced and directed numerous music videos for diverse artists including Chaka Khan, Tracy Chapman, Anita Baker, Public Enemy, Bruce Hornsby and Michael Jackson. His other music videos include work for the late Miles Davis and Phyllis Hyman, Naughty by Nature and Arrested Development.

Lee’s commercial work began in 1988 with his Nike Air Jordan campaign. Collaborating with basketball great Michael Jordan on several commercials, Lee resurrected his popular character, Mars Blackmon from She’s Gotta Have It. He has also completed a PSA for UNCF entitled Two Michaels, which also features Michael Jordan. Lee is also well known for his Levi’s Button-Fly 501, AT&T and ESPN television commercials. His other commercial ventures include TV spots for Philips, Nike, American Express, Snapple and Taco Bell. Lee has also directed several Art Spot Shorts for MTV and a short film featuring Branford Marsalis and Diahnne Abbott for Saturday Night Live.

Lee is also involved in documentaries and sports programs. He completed the Emmy and Oscar®-nominated documentary 4 Little Girls for HBO and received an Emmy Award for his piece on Georgetown’s John Thompson for HBO/Real Sports.

Additionally, Lee has authored six books on the making of his films. The fifth book, Five For Five served as a pictorial reflection of his first five features. He then followed up with Best Seat in the House, authored with Ralph Wiley. Lee and his wife Tonya Lewis Lee co-authored two children's books entitled Please, Baby, Please and Please, Puppy, Please. Most recently he authored a retrospective book about his film career entitled That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It.

Ever moving into new areas, Spike Lee has combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture: partnering with DDB Needham, he created Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency.

During the 1980s, Spike Lee began creating feature films that have gone on to separate him from other filmmakers. In 1986, Lee directed his independently produced comedy She’s Gotta Have It. This film garnered him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film festival. Mr. Lee’s feature films would go on to be nominated and for some, win many highly competitive and well respected awards. His film Do the Right Thing, released in 1989, is considered to be timely by many within the industry including critics and even by many of the film’s overall viewers. Do the Right Thing reaped an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and won Best Picture and Best Director awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Spike’s feature films are famous for shining the light on controversial topics such as race, class and a variety of relationships that many other directors may choose to shy away from. Jungle Fever, released in 1991, was one of Lee’s most controversial films. It brought to the forefront some of the reactions and feelings that people may feel towards interracial relationships. The following year would be a huge one for Spike when he released Malcolm X, which chronicled the life, career, and tragic death of one of America’s greatest Civil Rights Activists. This film garnered Denzel Washington, who played the title role, an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor. In 2006, Lee’s Inside Man was a box office hit. Marking a pivotal moment in this acclaimed Director’s career. It is Spike’s highest grossing film to date. On SEPTEMBER 26, 2008, Lee released Miracle at St. Anna, an epic film telling the story of four African American soldiers and their heart wrenching experiences while stationed in Italy during World War II. Currently, Passing Strange The Movie is available on DVD.


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