Spike Lee Premieres 'Red Hook Summer,' Loses Cool at Sundance Festival

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By Christine Thomasos, Christian Post Reporter
January 24, 2012|5:18 pm

Spike Lee recently premiered his Christian-themed "Red Hook Summer" at the Sundance Film Festival, where he lost his temper and received negative reviews from critics.

Lee, 54, funded the project himself. The coming-of-age story is about a boy from Atlanta spending a summer in Red Hook, Brooklyn (a borough of NYC) with his preacher grandfather and adapting to life in another part of the country.

Comedian Chris Rock attended the question and answer session for the film, and posed a question that got Lee riled up.

"You did it, you spent your own money, right?" Rock asked. "What would you have done differently if you'd actually gotten a bunch of studio money… What else would've happened?"

Lee responded by expressing his frustration with Hollywood studios.

"We never went to the studios with this film. I told you… I bought a camera and said we're gonna do this [expletive] film ourselves," Lee told the crowd at the festival after the premiere. "I didn't need a [expletive] studio telling me something about Red Hook! They know nothing about black people! Nothing!"

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Lee elaborated further on why he funded his own project.

"We had to do it OURSELVES! So I went to my trusted friends," Lee said. "James McBride, who wrote 'Red Hook' – the irony is the church we shot the film in is the church his parents built!"

At the festival, McBride spoke about how his own faith was impacted by the making of "Red Hook Summer."

"I still believe in God. I still believe in Jesus," he said. "In fact, this film has helped me believe in Jesus and believe in God even more."

Although Lee apologized to the audience for his outburst, some critics seemed unforgiving in their assessment of the film.

Robert Levin of Atlantic magazine said the film was more of a tirade than a movie.

"Dreams of vintage Lee's return go sadly unfulfilled, however, as the film is a long-winded, rambling mess," Levin wrote. "Far from a personal, character-driven production, the movie offers Lee's grandiose take on what it means to be African American in the 21st century (with an assist from co-writer James McBride). But this is a 135-minute harangue, not a movie."

Despite the large amount of negative criticism, the spiritual themes in the movie seemed to hit home for some.

Andrew O'Hehir, a Salon film critic, tweeted about how special he thought the movie was.

"Spike Lee's 'RED HOOK SUMMER' is a passionate, painful love letter to Brooklyn, NYC, black America and the black church," O'Hehir wrote. "Very special movie."

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