*Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” has been met wtih mixed reviews from critics from the major news outlets, but has been given a favorable review here in our dear EUR/Electronic Urban Report.
Those that have expressed concern over the film’s content and script simply cannot bring themselves to imagine how many major parts of the film’s plot came about. For a lot of of them there was no suspension of disbelief. They just didn’t get it. But for others the film was beautifully acted with colorful characters with realistic dialogue.
Recently Spike Lee engaged in a Q&A sessions following a screening of “Red Hook Summer” at the world famous Time Life Building in downtown Manhattan. Spike fielded the questions with a playfulness that was contrary to the common media portrayal of him as a egomaniacal smartass with a Napoleon complex.
“It’s 15 blocks on the edge of Brooklyn by the water,” said Lee of the film’s setting. “You gotta have a reason to go to Red Hook. It’s isolated. Like Bishop Enoch said, the projects weren’t built just for black people. They were built for the town’s Irish who work on the docks, and back in the day the docks were run by the mob.”
“Now gentrification has come to Red Hook,” he continued. “There’s Fairway, Ikea, the boat terminal with Queen Mary 2. Everything is changing. But no matter what anyone says, we’ve still got those 31 buildings right in the middle of the Hook filled with poor black and hispanic people.”
In the film we see Lee appearing as Mookie of “Do The Right Thing” fame. This film takes place in Red Hook, but “Do The Right Thing” was set in Bedford-Stuyvessant. Here’s the director’s explaination.
“Sal’s Pizzeria actually got burned down in Bed-Stuy. Sal moved it to Red Hook and Mookie went with him. The only reason was because Mookie was out of work. Besides unemployment, one of the things that was incentive for Mookie to work there was at the new Sal’s Famous Pizzeria Sal finally put up some sisters and brothers on the wall.”
Some in the audience were taken totally by surprise by the film’s sudden change in direction. Co-written by New York Times best selling author and writer of “Miracle at St. Anne’s” James McBride, Lee says the sudden, neck-jerking plot twist was by design and for an obvious reason.
“How many movies have you guys seen this summer where yous knew exactly what was going to happen before it happened? Because they make the same films again, and again, and again. You can watch a two-minute trailer and know what the movie is all about. We don’t make movies like that.”
Indeed you guys don’t, Spike. Indeed you don’t. Because the majority of the film took place at Lil’ Peace of Heaven Church, and that protagonist turned antagonist Bishop Enoch is … well … a bishop, it is only a matter of time before Spike Lee’s own religious beliefs are called to the forefront. But we don’t have to wait that long.
“I went to church with my parents. But in the summer time it was ‘you rusty butt negroes go down South and spend the summer with your grandparents. We got down South and we had to go to church. We hated it. I’ll go to church rarely, but I think I’m still a very religious person. But there’s just some things about organized religion that I don’t know about. And this whole ‘prosperity thing’? You give me a million dollars and somehow GOD will bless you too? And the church has 20,000 people going to service like it’s a basketball game? They don’t pass around plates there. They pass around buckets. Not for me.”
Another question raised by an audience member is why would the good bishop’s daughter, played by actress De’Adre Aziza, drop her only child on the door step of a man who she knows has a dark secret past? Here, Spike explains what may be good for the goose may not be good for the gander.
“It had been 15 years since the incident had happened and Bishop Enoch had been trying to mend his relationship with his daughter. For 13 years he had been trying to meet his grandson who recently he lost his father in Afghanistan. He’s at that age where he’s starting to act up and after 13 years of pleading and begging she finally relented to letting her father see his grandson. Now, I know there are some people that will say ‘Well, I would never do that’ and I understand that. And I hear some women that say ‘Well, I would never let my boyfriend beat my ass. F*ck that. F*ck that mother…’ All y’all have friends, don’t front, where y’all are like ‘Girl why you still with that mother…’ So, it’s easy to say what you would do but that doesn’t speak for everybody else. If that were the case then women wouldn’t (still)be getting abused.”
One constantly overlooked facet of Spike Lee’s craft is to segue seamlessly between indepenpdent films like “Red Hook Summer” and “She’s Got to Have It” among many others, and feature films. Spike was asked what single factor enables him to produce an indie film. The answer was pretty obvious.
“What’s different is the technology. I just bought the Sony digital camera, I have the production company. I had to do it myself. There’s no way in the world Hollywood is going to make this film and I’m not going to be begging them. They’re not going to invest if there aren’t any stars in it. It wasn’t necessarily a new freedom because I have final cut on any Hollywood film I do any way. I can go back and forth between independent films and Hollywood films and I’m comfortable doing both.”
“Red Hook Summer” opened in four theaters in New York City and drew in a little over $40,000 in its limited release it’s first weekend. Not too shabby. But we’ll see how it fairs across the nation as it opens in Los Angeles, Atlanta and other cities this Friday, August 24. Get the complete listing of theaters and showtimes HERE.
For more info on the film, go to: www.RedHookSummer.com.