Over the course of his 40-year career, American writer/director Spike Lee has made a couple of dozen films, numerous documentaries and several shorts. But perhaps none is as celebrated or significant as 1989’s Do the Right Thing, which remains as vital and relevant as ever.
The same year that Lee’s idiosyncratic portrait of urban racial tensions was released, ‘Making of Do the Right Thing’ was broadcast on US television, before later being included on the Criterion Collection release of Lee’s film. This documentary delves into various aspects of the production in order to tell the inside story of this landmark work. As Lee himself puts it, this is “not one of those regular bullshit EPK things”.
Do the Right Thing was shot entirely in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn, where the colour scheme of the streets was altered to help convey the record heatwave which backdrops the story. The documentary even captures the way the local residents reacted, from those who managed to get temporary jobs out of the production, to those angry at the inconvenience of being forced to stay inside during filming.
Almost 30 years later, as Lee continues to tell the story of race in America (he’s set to release his Rodney King documentary on Netflix next month), it’s fascinating to look back at his seminal New York film while glimpsing the lives of the people living there back then.
Published 20 Mar 2017
Find out by joining the author of ‘Facing Blackness’ for a special screening of the director’s 2000 film.
By Jack Godwin
The director has adapted Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man show.