Double Take looks back at a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary during another summer of strikingly similar violence.
Perhaps doing the right thing is figuring out how to go on after things that weren’t right at all.
Steve Leftridge: Well, Steve, it’s quite timely that the ol’ randomizer landed on Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, as 2014 was not only the Year of Ferguson but also the 25th anniversary of the Do the Right Thing. When Lee’s film, about a day in the life of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and a subsequent race riot, was released in the summer of 1989, the film was met with a storm of controversy and hand-wringing, primarily by members of the press who feared that the film would set off explosions of racial tension. While the film enjoyed widespread critical acclaim for the director’s unique storytelling, the great performances from the large cast, the cinematography, the modernist filmic flourishes, and the complex issues the film raises, its artistic achievements were, at the time, overshadowed by what some in the press considered dubious racial motivations. Such concerns likely cost the film and its director Academy Award nominations. Fortunately, time has been more kind to Do the Right Thing; it’s now widely regarded as a modern classic, currently landing, for instance, at number 96 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.