Controversy magnet – and two-time Oscar-nominated pioneer filmmaker – Spike Lee’s latest “joint,” Red Hook Summer, is yet another Brooklyn-based tale to join the ranks of classic Lee works like She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing and Crooklyn, among others. Not so shockingly, studios have been apprehensive about picking up the movie since its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Variance Films have now worked out a deal with Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks to distribute Red Hook Summer in theaters around the U.S., beginning this August. Read on for a summary of the film, which marks the first occasion that Lee has directed from his own, solely-produced original script since Bamboozled in 2000.
‘Red Hook Summer’ focuses on a sullen young boy, Flik Royale. He hails from middle-class Atlanta and heads to Red Hook 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 the youth into a follower of Jesus Christ. Between his grandfather’s constant preaching and the culture shock of inner-city life, the young man’s summer appears to be a total disaster–until he meets a 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.
Newcomers Jules Brown and Toni Lysaith are playing the love-struck young couple (Flik and Chazz) in Red Hook Summer. The remainder of the cast is rounded out by a handful of established names like The Wire alumni Clarke Peters and Isiah Whitlock Jr., Nate Parker (Red Tails), and Lee himself as “Mr. Mookie” – a return to his Do The Right Thing character. Numerous lesser-known thespians will serve in supporting roles.
With a screenplay penned by Lee that tackles many of the auteur’s favorite social/class issues – full of character archetypes and creative names that can immediately be recognized as Lee’s – and the “indie movie” personnel working on both sides of the camera, Red Hook Summer should feel all the more like a true Lee “joint” than his mainstream hits of the past decade (25th Hour, Inside Man).
That’s all to say: you probably already know whether or not Red Hook Summer is something you want to check out. For dedicated fans of Lee’s particular breed of cinema, this could be seen as a return of sorts to the style of storytelling that earned him a reputation as a filmmaker with an uncompromising artistic vision (among other things).
Red Hook Summer begins a limited theatrical release in New York on August 10th, 2012. It will expand around the U.S. in the weeks thereafter.