For the past three decades, Spike Lee has been one of the most vital forces in film-making. His movies – snappy, engaged, uncompromising, entertaining, literate, disturbing – reinvigorated the cinematic landscape and shook the status quo.
From his 1986 debut, She’s Gotta Have It, Lee’s arrival was a shot-across-the-bows for a film industry struggling to keep pace with contemporary life; Lee’s followup, Do the Right Thing – whose key moment involves an act of police brutality – was up for an original screenplay Oscar the year that Driving Miss Daisy won best picture.
In the 1990s, Lee made a seminal film almost every year, including Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, He Got Game and Summer of Sam. The first decade of the new century saw him release the likes of Bamboozled, 25th Hour, Inside Man, When the Levees Broke and Miracle at St Anna.
Seven years ago he made his first remake, of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, as well as dabbling in a new controversy with his 2016 Michael Jackson documentary. Chi-raq (2015) was hailed as a return to form for Lee, and BlacKkKlansman (2018) won the director a new generation of fans – and his first ever Academy award.
His latest film, Da 5 Bloods, is about four African-American veterans who return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their squad leader – and, possibly, some buried treasure. Speaking to Steve Rose in the Guardian earlier this week, the film’s star, Delroy Lindo, reflected on a career working with Lee, and the film’s resonance at a time of deep racial division and civil unrest.
Five days ago, Lee himself highlighted the continued relevance of Do the Right Thing, 31 years on, by splicing footage from that film with the arrests of George Floyd and Eric Garner, both of which led to their deaths, for a new short film.
3 Brothers-Radio Raheem, Eric Garner And George Floyd. pic.twitter.com/EB0cXQELzE— Spike Lee (@SpikeLeeJoint) June 1, 2020
Commenting subsequently on Donald Trump’s response to the unrest and demonstrations, Lee said it was a sign the president was “a gangster, trying to be a dictator”.
It’s not the director’s first new work in lockdown. Rather than, as planned, serving as the first black president of the Cannes jury in mid-May, Lee made an ode to his home town, New York, showing iconic sights, completed deserted.
Later this year, he was to begin production on Prince of Cats, a musical version of Romeo and Juliet, but that has been put on considerable ice; the director says he won’t shoot a new movie until a coronavirus vaccine has been developed.
What would you like to ask Lee? You have until 5pm BST on Monday 8 June to post your questions in the comments below; responses will be published at 6am BST on Friday 12 June.
• Da 5 Bloods is released on Netflix on 12 June.