clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lee attacks stereotypes — and war

Filmmaker tells of need to keep fighting racism

LOGAN — He can normally be seen behind a camera or court side at a New York Knicks game. But noted filmmaker Spike Lee was in Logan last week offering a capacity crowd of 2,000 at Utah State University a mix of media stereotypes and anti-war rants.

"Let's just get it out right away. I am not in favor of the war," he said. "You can support our troops and be patriotic but still be against the war."

Lee's rant went on for about 15 minutes and was met with roaring cheers from the crowd.

"When we come into someone else's land and tell them they have to stop what they're doing, you have to be pretty squeaky clean," he said.

But with the way the United States has treated slaves and American Indians, "We don't have that kind of (squeaky clean) history," Lee said. "Haven't we learned anything from Vietnam?"

Lee is best known for his films, including "Do the Right Thing" and "Malcolm X." He has made 17 films in the past 17 years.

"Films are very important. That's why I wanted to become a filmmaker," he said. "They affect people, for good and bad."

After graduating from New York University in 1982, Lee set out to make movies and make a difference.

"It used to be that it cost millions of dollars to make a movie," he said. "That is no longer the case, so I grabbed my Super 8 camera and started making films."

Lee's first film, "She's Gotta Have It," was shot on a shoestring budget, started by a $10,000 grant. They made the movie little by little with the help of grants, loans from friends and pop cans. After shooting the film in the mornings, Lee and his small crew would go to lunch and save their pop cans. By the end of shooting the film, the 5 cent deposit helped them buy two more rolls of film to complete the movie. The film cost $175,000 to make. Since its release, "She's Gotta Have It" has brought in over $8.5 million.

But it wasn't the money that lured Lee into the film industry.

"We really don't get the diversity of the African-American experience on screen," he said.

Lee says blacks typically get stereotyped into only a few Hollywood roles, especially those of rappers and violent characters.

"If you're around the corner, drinking a 40, smoking a blunt . . . then you're black, and you're keeping it real," he said. "We have to do something to turn this around. I don't think it's healthy."

Lee says combating racism is a slow process of change.

"There will come a point in the near future when white people will become the minority in this country," he said. "People just have to be more open to ideas, religion and other people's beliefs. That's it."