Sundance 2012: Inside Spike Lee's shocking, ranting 'Red Hook Summer' premiere

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8:52 —’s Jeffrey Wells issues noncommittal tweet: “Best things about Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer is the color and flavor. Chroma color, atmospheric flavor, colorful emotions, saturations.” Inside the theater, the Q&A is getting intense.

Co-writer McBride is talking about the movie’s point of view on the church. “I still believe in God. I still believe in Jesus,” he says. “In fact, this film has helped me believe in Jesus and believe in God even more.” He then acknowledges that a flashback scene of (again, SPOILER ALERT) molestation “was a scene that we all, everyone here, had some difficulty with.” Peters chimes in: “It’s still difficult, even to talk about now.”

8:55 — A question from the audience — from Chris Rock! “This is a real question!” he says. “You did it, you spent your own money, right? What would you have done differently if you’d actually gotten a bunch of studio money… What else would’ve happened?” There’s a pause. “Would you have blown up lots of s—?” Rock adds, cracking up the crowd.

8:58 — EW’s Adam B. Vary tweets: “RED HOOK SUMMER: Bizarre, flawed, passionate, and that’s just Spike Lee’s rant-y post-screening Q&A, featuring a Chris Rock cameo!”

8:59 — Lee gets very loud, jabbing his finger toward Rock. “We never went to the studios with this film. I told you! I TOLD YOU! … I bought a camera and said we’re gonna do this motherf—ing film ourselves.” He says the plan all along was to make it independently, and bring it to Sundance. “Of course, show it to you, John,” he interjected to the festival director. “So this whole thing was planned out. I didn’t need a motherf—ing studio telling me something about [the neighborhood of] Red Hook! They know nothing about black people! Nothing! And they’re gonna give me notes about what a 13-year-old black boy and girl do in Red Hook? F— no!”

9:00 — Lee is really steaming now. “What else can you do? We had to do it ourselves! We shot motherf—ing She’s Gotta Have It for 12 days back in 1986. And I’m now waiting for Universal to do the sequel to Inside Man, my biggest hit ever! I CAN’T WAIT ANYMORE!”

His voice echoes in the hall, which has become whisper-quiet.

“We had to do it OURSELVES! So I went to my trusted friends. Bruce! And then Judith. Now, if Michael Jackson picked her for the This Is It tour, I knew I had to use her!” Lee is shouting at the top of his lungs. The audience tentatively applauds. “James McBride, who wrote Red Hook — the irony is the church we shot the film in is the church his parents built!”

Lee takes a breath. Smiles. Scans the silent crowd. “Sorry for that motherf—ing tirade.”

9:01 — Festival director John Cooper gently suggests a wrap-up, since another movie will be playing in the theater shortly. Lee takes one more question. He seems to be furious. “Who is your question to!?” he barks at the person stumbling through the last Q of the Q&A. It’s a rambling one, vaguely directed at the child actors.

Lee seems annoyed by the complexity of it: “Yo, he’s 14 years old!” The woman in the audience continues to struggle through various observations. “Okay, you have to make it a question,” Cooper says.

He picks up a tambourine from somewhere. It’s apparently a prop from the movie. It’s like he’s preaching his own sermon.

9:02 — People begin standing up and shuffling out. Jones takes a stab at answering. “I’m just going to take what I learned and bring it to whatever else I get offered. And just show other people what I can do.”

Lysaith responds like a smiling A-student: “I have learned a lot from this experience and I will take it forward in whatever experience I have next in my life.”

Someone, it’s difficult to tell from the recording if it’s Lee or McBride, says: “I’m going to get with Jules and figure out everything he learned and then have him teach me.”

With a scattered round of applause, one of the more surreal moments of Sundance 2012 came to an end. Online, however, the conversation continues …

For more Sundance news, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter: @Breznican

(*Timeline assembled from Tweet timestamps and the recording run time.)

Read more:
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Sundance: Four clips from Frank Langella’s sci-fi heartwarmer ‘Robot and Frank’

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