Gail Choice | 3/26/2009, 5 p.m.
All hail Spike Lee! Perhaps one of the most important American in cinema today, Lee recently received the Behind the Lens Award presented by Chrysler LLC at their Sixth Annual "Behnd the Lens" Awards.
Lee was honored because of his outstanding achievements in film and television. The star-studded event hosted by CNN's anchor Soledad O'Brien marked an eventful evening that was filled with adulation for Lee and his many groundbreaking achievements and accomplishments Lee joins an outstanding list of previous recipients; Quincy Jones, John Singleton, Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks, and Reuben Cannon.
Proceeds from the prestigious event will go to the many charitable organizations that The Chrysler Foundation supports.
When Spike Lee burst upon the national scene in 1986 with "She's Gotta Have It," the film going community was all abuzz.
Lee, with his unique style, seemed a comical character on screen but that characterization did little to reflect the passionate, outspoken individual he truly is. It was clear to many black Americans that Lee was a proud black man, willing to tell black stories from a non-mainstream point of view. This occured at a time when a number of blacks in Hollywood shied away for the 'black' label in order to 'blend-in' in hopes of getting work.
Lee quickly endeared himself to black Americans because his early films spoke to the black experience. In 1988, "School Daze" focused on the subject of light skin vs. dark skin, and the animosities between Greek sororities and fraternities on black college campuses. This groundbreaking film was somewhat controversial in the black community because it pointed a finger at prejudices within our own race. This film made it perfectly clear that Lee had a lot to say.
In "Do the Right Thing" Lee turned his lens to prejudice, anger and deep seated racial hatred that, on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, exploded in violence and destruction.
With each film Lee opened a window to the black world that offered up uncomfortable truths, and a lot of 'amen to that,' love and laughter. The 1990 film "Mo' Better Blues" focused on the musical world and an art form we cannot let pass away. The loves and lives surrounding this music were tinged with anger, jealousy and corruption, ain't that the blues? And then there's 1991's "Jungle Fever," in a word powerful. He showed both sides when it comes to interracial couples and what they have to go through to be together. And he freely let the black woman vent, once again groundbreaking.
Lee's legendary film career aside, we know that the man speaks from his heart, cuts through the 'bull-crap' and tells us like he sees it and then let's us judge for ourselves. From "4 Little Girls" the 1997 HBO documentary putting faces, and lives with the names of four little girls who were killed in a racist terrorist bombing of a Birmingham church during the civil rights era of 1963. To the very heartbreaking and poignant 2006 documentary series, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" an eye opening look at the death and destruction of Katrina and the aftermath. But these and other film and TV accomplishments still don't tell you the complete picture of his contributions.
In front of the camera Lee is responsible for launching the careers of such stars as Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, Wesley Snipes and he impacted the career of Denzel Washington. Behind the lens, Lee is responsible for helping many individuals work in film and television production that would not have been hired by mainstream filmmakers.
Art Sims, owner and operator of 11:24 Design Advertising says Lee personally introduced him to studio executives and said this man will be creating my film advertising. This was a bold move, it didn't sit well with the powers that be, but it happened and Sims has delivered for Lee again and again. Check out his web site at www.1124design.com you will recognize a great number of posters you may have hanging on your walls.
Spike Lee truly deserves this outstanding recognition and we congratulate him.