Saturday, November 29, 2014


This past Monday I was at a screening of Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music with my friend Mtume Gant when he got a text from Newlyweeds director Shaka King about reading for the role of "Buggin' Out" in some kind of special intimate reading of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing at The Lincoln Center. As it turned out, Shaka & Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler, in conjunction with the activist organization; Blackout For Human Rights, were organizing/curating a free screenplay reading of Lee's original script as a way to raise awareness towards some recent high profile humans rights violations caused by public servants/police officers (the choking death of Eric Garner, the shooting of both Oscar Grant & Mike Brown, etc) and to counter the madness of "Black Friday".

On a side note - this Black Friday nonsense is not a good look for Americans. I'll be the first to admit that I can't stand when other countries criticize America/Americans (unless your Canadian or Icelandic, you really have no right to criticize what any country does even if your current track record is OK at the moment. Just sayin'...)
But no other country acts as ridiculous as we do when it comes to consumerism. It's gotten to the point where all the craziness associated with Black Friday (riots, fights, deaths, lining up outside a store in the cold weather at 12am to get a good price on a TV or a blender) has reached the news in other countries, and they're laughing at us. I was in Paris a few years ago and some of my Parisian friends were inquiring about Black Friday with these smirks on their faces almost as if they were saying; "you dummies".
...strangely enough, everyone who attended this reading of Do The Right Thing (myself included) did have to wait outside in the cold for a while in order to get in. But the event was free and more than worth it. Not to sound dramatic but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for both cinephiles & socially conscious folk that are fed up with what's going on in the world today (especially in the U.S.)

And in my opinion, it's much better to wait 90 minutes out in the cold for something like this instead of waiting for a flat screen TV that'll break in a few years...

The intimate reading of DTRT last night was many things. It was yet another deserved (and possibly the most unique) celebration of the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee's film (I'm privileged to have personally attended two of three 25th anniversary events for DTRT here in NYC); it was a mini reunion in that some of the original cast members (John Turturro, Frankie Faizon & Joie Lee) were able to come together again, and, as I already noted, it was an appropriately timed event with all that's been going on concerning police brutality & gun violence in America these days.

Throughout this special raw, lively, rehearsal-like reading of Spike Lee's original script, there were photos & images of recent protests concerning everyone from Oscar Grant up to Mike Brown projected on a large screen behind the actors.

Last night was also a bit of a torch passing on Lee's part as the reading was co-curated/directed by two of the few young/up & coming American filmmakers of color working today (Coogler & King). In fact, many of the actors they've worked with were featured in the reading playing various roles (Michael B. Jordan, Trae Harris, Tone Tank, Melanie Diaz, etc). 
Although Spike Lee couldn't be in attendance, he sent along a personal message/dedication for Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis & Danny Aiello Jr.

At this point, I'm sure most people reading this have seen Spike Lee's groundbreaking film. And even if you haven't seen it, I'm sure you've seen it referenced everywhere in mainstream pop culture in the last 25 years from outlets ranging from The Simpsons & SNL to the films of Kevin Smith. But this scripted version of Do The Right Thing had a few slight differences from the movie version - certain lines were changed and/or removed, some scenes were added, and the famous climactic riot at the end had a slightly different outcome. 
The roles of Mookie (Spike Lee) & Tina (Rosie Perez) were played by Michael B. Jordan & Melanie Diaz, respectfully. Turturro & Joie Lee portrayed the roles of Sal (Danny Aiello Sr.) & Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee). Mtume Gant & comedian Godfrey read for the roles of Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) & Mister Señior Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), while a slew of other actors (Gbenga Akinnagbe, Trae Harris, Tone Tank, etc) wore multiple hats portraying various roles throughout the screening (original cast member Frankie Faizon was the only actor to reprise his original role).

For a cold reading (some of the actors who participated in this event never even met prior to it), this thing went off incredibly smooth and the (privileged) audience fully enjoyed themselves. It was almost like getting an inside look at the pre-production/rehearsal/workshopping process that goes in to filmmaking & acting.
As a person of color/cinephile/film critic/somewhat socially conscious person I couldn't think of a better way to spend a post-thanksgiving evening (I'm not even sure if the reading was even filmed which makes this even more special in this viral/instant world we live in)


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