The first thing we hear in the 1989 film Do the Right Thing is radio DJ Mister Señor Love Daddy saying, “Wake up! Wake up! Up you wake!” With those words, Spike Lee urged all of us to WAKE UP and pay attention to race issues in America.
Last Friday, the film celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Spike was introduced to the crowd by Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African American president of the Academy.
Before a screening of a new 35mm print from the Academy Film Archive, Spike announced there was a surprise: a tribute to the film by the President and First Lady. Do the Right Thing holds a significant place in their hearts as it was the movie the Obamas saw on their first date.
In the tribute President Obama says, “We had eaten lunch at the Art Institute of Chicago, gone for a little walk, and then I took her to this new movie everybody was talking about, directed by a guy that not that many people had heard of, but it was supposed to be pretty good.” Michelle continues, “He was trying to show me his [she does air quotes] ‘sophisticated side’ by selecting an independent filmmaker, and it ended up being a pretty good movie — really great.”
As the crowd laughs President Obama says, “So Spike, thank you for helping me impress Michelle, and thank you for telling a powerful story.”
In a new interview in Rolling Stone, Spike Lee is clearly still upset over original reviews of his movie implying there would be riots after the release of Do the Right Thing. Reviews saying, “That they [black people] weren’t intelligent enough to make the distinction between what’s happening on screen and what happens in real life — so they would come out of theaters and riot all across America.” Spike calls those fears “outrageous, egregious and, I think, racist. I don’t remember people saying people were going to come out of theaters killing people after they watched Arnold Schwarzenegger films.”
Saturday, Spike Lee was back in Brooklyn to host a block party on the actual block where he filmed Do the Right Thing. The Bed-Stuy avenue has fittingly been renamed “Do The Right Thing Way.”
With its vibrant and lyrical storytelling, everyone gets drawn in to the world of Mookie. This movie made a lot of people realize that talking about race issues is not a bad thing. It is an IMPORTANT thing. It is a vital, urgent thing. It is the right thing. Do the Right Thing is one of the most important films of our generation and 25 years later, the film is still as relevant as ever.
Watch the Obamas Tribute to Do the Right Thing:
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