Spike Lee’s 2018 Academy Award for the BlacKkKlansman Adapted Screenplay was a long-awaited triumph for the provocateur.  What makes Lee’s voice as provocative as it is, prompting such a strong and public discourse?  Perhaps it is the fact that Lee is unafraid of making enemies simply to prove a point. Perhaps it is the trail-blazing opportunities and storylines he creates for African-American actors and filmmakers.  Perhaps it is the fact that his films never leave an easy answer in their search for truth––especially when it comes to race relations––that makes them irresistible for discussion.  And perhaps it is Lee’s continual insistence that history is not gone and forgotten but instead, alive and manifesting itself in society every day that gives each of his films a relevancy long past their release date.  While each of these characteristics alone are thought-provoking, when combined together, they create a formidable voice that does nothing so much as inspire discussion. This is what makes a film singularly Spike Lee’s.  This visual essay examines the development of  Lee’s distinctive artistic voice, featuring looks at some of his earliest work like Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop leading up to Malcolm X, the apex of his creative career.


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Brynn Artley

Videographer and Film Studies Major at Winona State University