Spike Lee: The Man Behind the Camera

I always love it when other members of this post blog information, quotes or interviews with Spike Lee. I feel like we spend a lot of time in class conjecturing about what Spike Lee was thinking or trying to say with each one of his films, so sometimes it is nice to get to check our conjectures with actual evidence of Lee’s thought process. With that in mind, I thought I would end the semester by sharing some cool facts about Lee.

First, Lee teaches at the graduate film program at NYU, and every year he distributes his “Essential Films List” to the graduates of the program. He recently posted the list online, and like everything else he’s ever done, it’s already garnered criticism. In particular, the list has been critiqued for its noticeable lack of female filmmakers. See the full list here.

Second, about a year ago, Lee sat down for an intense interview with The Atlantic. In it, he discusses the evolution of his career, what he tries to teach emerging filmmakers at NYU, and the limits of the Hollywood studio system. The full interview is available here, but here are some of my favorite quotes.

A little about Lee’s personal life:

Fragoso: Have you a softened a little with age?

Lee: I’m married. Two kids. My daughter is in film school, an undergrad sophomore at NYU. My son’s a senior in high school. So a lot has changed … If you get angry about everything you’re going to give yourself cancer. So you just gotta pick and choose. And to be honest, you can’t let anger rule your life. It’s just not productive. Well I can’t speak for everybody, but it’s not productive for me.

Fragoso: So how do you pick and choose?

Lee: Depends what we’re talking about. I was very angry about the outcome of the grand jury in Ferguson and Staten Island, that’s for sure. Trayvon Martin too, if we’re going down the list. There’s a long list. But like I said before, I can’t let anger rule my life. It’s not good for anybody.

And about the general state of America:


Lee: I would like to do something that captures the state of America today, where we are as a country. That’d be great.

Fragoso: Where do you think we are?

Lee: We’re in disarray.

Fragoso: Have we always been?

Lee: Yeah, but, you know, a lot of times it’s right underneath the surface and then something jumps off and everything just bursts out.

Fragoso: Many Americans appeared surprised by racism this time. As if everything was better.

Lee: I know, it was crazy that some people thought that when President Obama, the first time, put his right hand on Abraham Lincoln’s bible, that hocus pocus abracadabra: racism just went “poof.” I wasn’t drinking that Kool-Aid the minute I heard it. People were swept up in the euphoria of an African-American president.

Fragoso: And now?

Lee: And now we’re back in reality.


Author: arohde

First-time blogger; full-time student

One thought on “Spike Lee: The Man Behind the Camera”

  1. I really appreciate how you gave us a glimpse of what Lee has actually said outside of the film and not behind the camera because it only reinforces what we see in the films. I think Spike Lee comes from a unique yet common place– unique as a director, producer, and actor who has been able to outright comment on racism, sexism, homophobia etc in his production, and common as someone who expresses the same exact sentiments as any marginalized groups in America. What he said about the lack of transformation from the past to the present is simply too true. The struggles of the past are just as salient in the present, and the fact that some of it occurs in more covert than overt ways makes it even harder to address in our reality today.


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