Award-winning film-director, actor, writer and producer, Spike Lee, spoke to a packed house on issues surrounding the importance of education, violence amongst African Americans and politics at the University of Memphis Tuesday.
“We come from a long line of educated people,” Lee said. “Education will have to be the way for us to move forward.” The Morehouse College alumnus answered questions from the audience and addressed criticism surrounding his most recent film “Chi-Raq”.
“Chi-Raq” caused controversy amongst viewers who perceived the film was making a mockery of the ongoing violence in Chicago.
When asked by an audience member to directly respond to critics of the film Lee declined.
Instead he explained the inspiration for the movie. “‘Chi-Raq’ was inspired by an ancient Greek play written by Aristophanes in 411 B.C.,” Lee said. “The play is about a heroin named Lysistrata who brought women together to refrain from intercourse until the war stopped.”
Lee previously visited the U of M in March 2010, where he addressed similar topics including growing up in Brooklyn as a child.
An Evening with Spike Lee is a part of a series of events taking place on campus in honor of Black History Month. The office of Multicultural Affairs has a similar event every year during Black History Month. Previous speakers included Alfre Woodard, Steven A. Smith, Lou Gossett Jr. and Debbie Allen.
“Spike Lee is an important figure in black culture today,” said Erin A. Bailey, coordinator for the office of multicultural affairs. “We know that he will inspire students in a way that only he can.”
The heavy rain did not stop people from coming to see the director. Every seat in the Michael D. Rose Theatre, where Lee spoke, was filled, and not everyone who came to see the director speak was let into theatre.
Fifteen minutes before the Lee was scheduled to be on stage, University officials turned away more than 40 students who were waiting in the rain. Other students, like Ashley Kee, 23, from Smyrna, Tennessee, said she was disappointed the University let non-students in to see Lee leaving less room for students who actually paid to bring him here.
“It’s not fair. They should have had priority for students,” Kee said. She said she waited in line 30 minutes in hopes to see Lee speak. “I basically came out here for nothing.”
Only people who got free wristbands two hours before the event were allowed to enter. Lee made his directorial debut in 1983 when he directed his film “She’s Gotta Have It.”
Since then, his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule, has produced more than 35 films including “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.” The director’s recent remarks regarding the Oscars has gained much attention.
Lee has vowed to boycott the award ceremony due to the lack of minority representation. “Over the past two years not one single person of color has been nominated for an Oscar,” Lee said. “That is absolutely ridiculous.”