Whenever Spike Lee releases a new film, it’s cause for attention and celebration, even if the project is ultimately more She Hate Me than Malcolm X. That’s what happens when you’re universally regarded as one of modern-day cinema’s most important filmmakers, a reputation earned from the Brooklyn native’s early days of do-it-yourself, brave moviemaking that spawned independent classics like She’s Gotta Have It (1986) and Do the Right Thing (1989) and lesser heralded but also singular works like Bamboozled (2000) and 25th Hour (2002).
This weekend, Lee’s latest film, the indie coming-of-age drama Red Hook Summer, opens in limited release. Set in the writer-director’s BK homeland, it’s about a 13-year-old kid (played by newcomer Jules Brown) from Atlanta who spends the summer with his grandfather (The Wire alum, and current Treme star, Clarke Peters), an intensely God-fearing bishop. And, in typical Lee fashion, it’s a controversial crowd-divider, with a third act plot-turn that inspired both vitriol and adoration from critics when Red Hook Summer premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Thanks to Lee’s undeniable legacy, Red Hook Summer has easily attracted film buffs of all backgrounds; indirectly, however, it’s also a sharp reminder that films of its nature—ones made by gifted black directors with intelligence, virtuosity, and other attributes not applicable to Tyler Perry’s résumé—are sadly rare.
Lee isn’t the be-all and end-all of such filmmaking, though; tracing back to the 1910s, we’ve compiled a list of 10 Black Filmmakers Who Deserve More Respect, searching beyond names like John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers to shed light upon the important visual creators who far too often get left off countdowns of essential cinematic talents.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)