Did you know that Spike Lee, the director of the controversial crime drama movie BlacKkKlansman, proved his directorial talents while still studying for a master’s degree? In 1983, the esteemed filmmaker created the indie film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads for his master’s degree thesis at the Tisch School of Arts. It was a film that tried to display a relatively unseen juxtapose - a normally safe-looking barbershop that is also house to dangerous mobster deals. The film exceeded many expectations and became the first-ever student film to be featured in Lincoln Center’s New Directors New Films Festival and went on to win a Student Academy Award. His classmates Ang Lee and Ernest Dickerson helped with the film, along with his father Bill Lee, who will go on to write musical scores for some of Spike’s film.
Much like his first movie, Spike will be known for pushing the boundaries of using controversial subjects in his motion pictures. The list of his most iconic movies include the 1992 biopic Malcolm X, which portrayed the life of the Afro-American activist, Chi-Raq (2015), which were filled with themes of urban gang violence, and BlacKkKlansman (2018), a movie adaptation of Ron Stallworth’s memoir about infiltrating the dangerous racist group, Ku Klux Klan. The 2018 spectacle is generally viewed as Spike’s return to his form and roots, as his use of an upside-down and black-and-white flag at the end of the film not only earned him Academy Award nominations but also managed to stir debates across the US upon the film’s release.
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