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Spike  Lee

Spike Lee

Filmmaker

Biography

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. Read More >

Tapping into hard-hitting recent history, Lee produced When the Levees Broke, the groundbreaking first documentary that followed the plight of Americans stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and its Peabody Award-winning sequel, If God’s Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise, which revisits the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast region as residents attempt to rebuild their cities while also demanding assistance and accountability from their political leaders. Going further back in time, he also produced the Emmy- and Oscar-nominated documentary 4 Little Girls, a grisly account of the terrorist bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement.

Lee’s other films include Miracle at St. Anna, which follows four members of the all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Division in the US army trapped behind enemy lines in Tuscany during World War II; Kobe—Doin’ Work, a one-day, 18-camera documentary shoot focusing on NBA standout Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers; Girl 6; Get on the Bus; Do the Right Thing; and Clockers, among many more. His most recent work is the feature film Red Hook Summer, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.

Spike Lee’s movies are a series of outspoken and provocative socio-political critiques that challenge our cultural assumptions not only about race but also class and gender identity. He has not only solidified his own standing as one of contemporary cinema's most influential figures but also revolutionized the role of black talent in Hollywood, tearing away decades of stereotypes and marginalized portrayals to establish a new arena for African American voices to be heard. 

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Brooklyn, Spike Lee returned South to attend Morehouse College. After graduation, he returned to Brooklyn to continue his education at New York University’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 Fort Greene 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.

Other critical and box office successes have included such films as Inside Man; 25th Hour; The Original Kings of Comedy; Bamboozled; Summer of Sam; and Passing Strange, based on the critically acclaimed Broadway musical, which explores the travels of a young African American musician in search of himself.

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 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, as well as 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. 

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 co-authored a children’s book entitled Please, Baby Please with his wife Tonya Lewis Lee and most recently authored a retrospective book about his film career entitled That’s My Story and I’m Sticking To It.

Always moving into new areas, Spike Lee has combined his extensive creative experiences into yet another venture: partnering with DDB Needham to create Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

That's My Story & I'm Sticking to It: An Evening with Spike Lee

Books & Media

Books

Mo' Better Blues

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