Spike Lee

"I think black people have to be in control of their own image because film is a powerful medium. We can't just sit back and let other people define our existence"

Spike Lee

A partner, a pioneer, a prophet and a pain. These are some of the words that Denzel Washington used to describe Spike Lee when presenting him with an honorary Oscar in 2015.

Name a genre and Lee’s probably dabbled in it: from biopics to documentaries, musicals to war films, heist movies to satires. No two Lee films are ever the same, yet a vibrant visual style, passion and attitude bind them together.

The first African American director to become a household name, he burst onto the 1980s indie scene with his debut full-length feature, She’s Gotta Have It (1986), offering a cinematic experience for black audiences that had a poppier edge than the films of east coast peers Charles Burnett and Julie Dash, yet was miles removed from the blacksploitation features of the previous decade. With Do the Right Thing following in 1989, he became a filmmaker of international fame, seen as the figurehead of the new black cinema and being feted at film festivals worldwide.

A passionate supporter of black art and emancipation, his films often comment on the state of ‘white America’ past and present, telling stories of black Americans that were previously little heard in Hollywood films. Lee’s never been afraid to rock the boat, cultivating a public persona that’s known well beyond the film world for his outspoken attitudes around racial politics.

Read more about where to begin with Spike Lee  from Grace Barber-Plentie