Spike Lee Essay

Spike Lee Essay

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Shelton Jackson Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia March 20, 1957. Born to teacher Jacqueline Carroll and jazz musician William James Edward Lee, Shelton grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he was provided with a rich cultural upbringing that included plays, movies, and music (Gale 1). At a young age, Lee was nicknamed “Spike” by his mother who noticed his rough nature and the nickname stuck well into his adult life. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia where he gained an interest in film and then graduated with a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication. Lee went on to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he created his first student film and graduated in 1982 with a Master of Fine Arts in Film and Television. Being one of the few black students to attend Tisch School of the Arts, the aspiring filmmaker’s first year at New York University was a particularly difficult one. Lee’s experiences, race, and upbringing have all led him to create controversial films to provide audiences with an insight into racial issues.
Spike Lee’s first student production, The Answer, was a short ten minute film which told of a young black screenwriter who rewrote D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. The film was not well accepted among the faculty at New York University, stating Lee had not yet mastered “film grammar.” Lee went on to believe the faculty took offense to his criticisms towards the respected director’s stereotypical portrayals of black characters (1). For his final film project, Lee wrote, produced, and directed Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads. The film won him the 1983 Student Academy Award for Best Director and the Lincoln Center chose the film as its first student production. The film was lo...


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...d violence (Biography 1). While black oriented films have veered away from racism and focused more on humor and sex to attract the new younger audience, Lee has continued to focus on racial issues, keeping the door open for other directors to follow. One of the most original, innovative, and without a doubt controversial filmmakers in America, Lee admits he has been blessed with the opportunity to express the views of black people who otherwise don’t have access to power and media (IMDb 4). Lee uses this motivation coming from his passion of being able to express the views of many, along with Malcolm X himself and his philosophy that blacks need to build their own economic base, to continue contributing to Hollywood (Gale 4). There is no doubt that Spike Lee will continue to find ways to impact audiences with his controversial actions, statements and racial films.

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