Producer Shani Harris; actress and producer Antonia Badon; and historian and videographer, Madelaine Piel, sat down with our host, Stefanie Alleyne, at the traditional Irish restaurant and bar, “Percy’s Tavern,” in Alphabet City in the Lower East Side in Manhatan to review filmmaker Spike Lee’s latest project, “Red Hook Summer.”
Co-written by the New York Times best-selling and award-winning author, James Mc Bride and Spike Lee and directed by Spike Lee, this is yet another film by Lee in the series that he calls the “Chronicles of Brooklyn.” Expect to happen upon lots of familiar faces from previous films by the director as well as being introduced to a number of newcomers. Spike Lee is well known throughout the film industry for his knack of picking talent. Many who have worked with him in the past have gone on to become some of Hollywood’s finest like Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson and most recently, Kerry Washington. A few of his favorite themes such as gentrification, religion and sexuality are given a youthful inspection here. Wrapped in a vocabulary we have all come to acknowledge as the potency in a Spike Lee Joint, this story will leave you with much to contemplate.
We follow the journey of Flik Royale, a young teen from the middle-class suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, who is played here sufficiently by newcomer, Jules Brown. He arrives in a housing project in Red Hook, Brooklyn to visit with his grandfather, Da Good Bishop Enoch Rouse, played by Clarke Peters, who happens to also be a pastor at a local church in need of much. Over the period of the summer, we observe Flik as he learns the ways and woes of urban life in the tough, inner city as well as watch him evolve when forced to deal with dark secrets about his family’s past.
Shot in a little less than three weeks and within a 12 block radius in this community, Lee self-financed this production as well as worked with a number of his students from his film classes at New York University. Although the film is not without its issues and skeptics, these aforementioned details are not the points in question. This is a film rich with great color and cinematography, as well as heart, character and authenticity. The gorgeous soundtrack includes music by the amazing Bruce Hornsby, features beautiful arrangements of Negro spirituals by Dr. Uzee Brown, as well as original organ music written and performed by Jonathan Batiste. As one who has often found Lee’s soundtracks to be a strength of his films, this one does not disappoint.
In this film, Spike Lee continues his crusade to give quality time and presence to contemporary African American narrative while earmarking often overlooked urban experiences.
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