Unchained at Sundance 2012: RED HOOK SUMMER


I woke up extra, extra early and still had to wait in line to see Spike Lee’s latest joint RED HOOK SUMMER. Talk about being a must-see. I would have left my head down in shame if I’d left Park City without seeing this film. The 8:30am screening was a hot ticket even though it had officially premiered the night before. I was busy avoiding any and all spoilers about THE CRAZY TWIST in the plot from every corner of the festival and online press. Of course I can’t even write a minimal review of the film because it’s something you just have to judge for yourself. Plus I hate spoilers and don’t want to be guilty of it myself.

Mr. Lee was at the Q&A and it was my first time hearing him speak in person. It was quite the event especially at a morning screening of a 130 minute film. If you don’t know, Lee has always been very vocal about his relationship with Hollywood studios. I won’t rehash it here but it’s definitely worth Googling. The big question is will the film get a distributor? According to everything I’ve read, it looks like Lee will get the film out by Summer 2012 regardless.

RED HOOK of course was filmed in Brooklyn, but I was surprised to learn it was shot in 19 days, costs under 1 million dollars and with a 1/3 of the crew being NYU students. Even the editor of the film was a NYU student. Can you imagine the first feature you ever cut being a Spike Lee joint? What a career-making opportunity. Lee’s motto of “do what you love” was evident in his passionate words about the film’s origins. The script was co-written by Lee and James McBride, author of the novel “The Color of Water”. The story originated from their mutual disgust of the state of cinema and that Lee had just bought a new Sony camera.

Everything about the production oozes BK. It was filmed within a 10 block radius of the real Red Hook, where McBride actually grew up. Lee commented that although the film is not in the trendy 3D genre, it is full of “emotional explosions”. Thank goodness.

I really got the sense that this film and Lee/McBride were trying to show the similarities and disconnect between their generation and today’s youth in Brooklyn. It is clearly a special place to the long-time collaborators. The most lasting point of the morning came from McBride. He said that the film “speaks for the people who are not spoken for; Red Hook is a metaphor for a lot of communities.” And that’s the truth, Ruth!

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One thought on “Unchained at Sundance 2012: RED HOOK SUMMER

  1. […] journey. The film received some of the most polarizing reviews I’ve ever read (my own take HERE) covering everything from story to running time and everything inbetween. For the longest time it […]


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