Spike Lee has blasted critics who claimed ‘Do the Right Thing’ would spark riots.
The 66-year-old director said his film was accused of being powerful enough to incite violence among black people when it opened in 1989, and he has now hit out at the allegation while honouring one of the reviewers who came to the film’s defence at the time.
Spike said as he received the Ebert Director Award – named after the late film critic Roger Ebert – at the Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Awards on Sunday (10.09.23): “Your husband got behind me when those motherf****** in the Press were saying that ‘Do the Right Thing’ was going to incite Black people to riot.”
Spike was accepting his award from Roger’s widow Chaz Ebert, and added critics had said “this film should not be shown in the United States”.
The filmmaker named David Denby and Joe Klein as two of the most prominent critical voices against the film, which has gone to be considered one of the greatest films ever made.
Spike recalled the pair wrote readers should “hope to God that this doesn’t open in your neighbourhood”.
He added: “The struggle still continues. It’s not an even playing field.”
Colman Domingo, Vicky Krieps, Patricia Arquette, Pedro Almodovar and Shawn Levy were also honoured at the Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Awards.
Colman, 53, was recognised with a performer award for his work in prison drama ‘Sing Sing’, and recalled when he was struggling in his career and complaining to his mother about not getting a break.
He said she advised him to do some volunteer work so he “could do something that’s not about yourself”, adding: “Anything that I do or touch, it really is at the core. If you see me play a villain or you see me play a hero or a civil rights leader, it’s service. That’s what I care about.
“And I’m very particular about what I do and the rooms that I’m in and the people that I want to build with. Because I want to love and fall in love with everyone that I work with. I really do.”