A wholly independent film financed out of Lee’s pocket and shot guerilla-style over 19 days on just a few Brooklyn blocks, Red Hook Summer is a coming-of-age tale about a young boy from Atlanta forced to spend a summer in the projects of Red Hook (a neighborhood in Brooklyn) with the Bible-thumping grandfather he’s never met. The film elicited some emotional responses after its screening at the Sundance Film Festival, with many viewers being taken aback by a shocking scene late in the movie featuring a preacher involved in a heinous sex act involving Bible scripture.
“It was one of the most difficult scenes I’ve ever done,” Lee told the L.A. Times. “But I knew it had to be done. It would have been cowardly and gutless and punkish to not deal with it straight on.”
The Sundance screening was also noteworthy due to Lee’s response to a question about how the film would have been different had a big studio become involved.
“They [studios] know nothing about black people,” Lee said, according to reports from the Times, “and they’re going to give me notes about what a 13-year-old boy and girl are doing in Red Hook? Shit no!”
The film also deals with issues prevalent in the borough including gentrification and black poverty, and Lee said he made the film out of his own pocket because Hollywood wouldn’t.
Lee also stressed that Red Hook Summer is absolutely not a sequel to 1989′s Do The Right Thing, another of his films about coming of age in Brooklyn, although it could be considered a companion piece. Lee reprises his role as “Mookie” in Red Hook, updating the audience on how his life turned out after that hot Bed-Stuy summer depicted over 20 years ago.
Clarke Peters (Detective Lester Freamon from The Wire) is the veteran leading Red Hook Summer‘s cast of relative newcomers, which includes Nate Parker, Jules Brown, Thomas Jefferson Byrd and James Ransome. The film hits U.S. theatres August 10 via boutique distributor Variance Films.
Check out the official synopsis and trailer below.
RED HOOK SUMMER is the latest in Spike Lee’s Chronicles of Brooklyn (which also include SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, DO THE RIGHT THING, CROOKLYN, CLOCKERS, and HE GOT GAME), RED HOOK SUMMER tells the story of Flik Royale, a sullen young boy from middle-class Atlanta who has come to spend the summer with his deeply religious grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse, in the housing projects of Red Hook. Having never met before, things quickly get off on the wrong foot as Bishop Enoch relentlessly attempts to convert Flik into a follower of Jesus Christ. Between his grandfather’s constant preaching and the culture shock of inner-city life, Flik’s summer appears to be a total disaster–until he meets Chazz Morningstar, a pretty girl his age, who shows Flik the brighter side of Brooklyn. Through her love and the love of his grandfather, Flik begins to realize that the world is a lot bigger, and perhaps a lot better, than he’d ever imagined.
For more on Red Hook Summer, visit the film’s official website.