Swing’s ‘The Right Thing’! Spike Lee celebrating film’s birthday all week

Mookie of ceremonies: Spike Lee presided over the block party celebrating the 25th anniversary of his seminal joint “Do The Right Thing.”
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Brooklyn is buggin’ out for the 25th anniversary of the seminal Spike Lee film “Do the Right Thing.”

The classic turns 25 this week, and the auteur’s native borough is celebrating through July 10. The festivities kicked off on Saturday with a block party that drew 2,000, including singer Erykah Badu, actor Wesley Snipes, comedian Dave Chappelle, and rappers Chuck D and Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def. The partiers and performers packed the Bedford-Stuyvesant block where the movie was shot, and the party also reportedly featured a video message from President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama about watching the film on the big screen on their first date.

One neighbor had seen the movie but never realized it was filmed on Stuyvesant Avenue between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue, around the corner from where she lives. The bash was a blast, she said.

“It was awesome,” said Precious Peoples, who attended with her husband Willie and their 10-month-old daughter Tami. “We couldn’t go to far because we had the baby in the stroller, but we just stood around and enjoyed the music.”

The walk down memory lane continued on Sunday with a screening of the movie at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, after which cast and crew members swapped stories about the production process and its legacy.

“The reason why we’re here today is because we told the truth,” Lee said during a question and answer after the film. “We had the crystal ball.”

The showing was the start of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s retrospective of Lee’s work that will run until July 10.

Others on hand included Rosie Perez, who played Lee’s character Mookie’s girlfriend and danced through one of the most memorable opening credits sequences in cinema history.

Perez recalled that Lee discovered her at a nightclub where it was Lee’s birthday and he was having a contest to see which woman at the club had the biggest backside. She took him to task for his gross behavior that night, but Lee just laughed, she said.

“Was it my ass or my accent?” she asked Lee on the Fort Greene stage.

Lee contents that it was definitely the accent.

“I don’t remember looking at Rosie’s culo,” he said.

Lee bit his tongue when it came to discussing gentrification, probably owing to the splash he made back in February when he likened the contemporary scene at Fort Greene Park to the “m———— Westminster Dog Show” during a Pratt Institute lecture. But he did bring up the “Do the Right Thing” scene where a white, Larry Bird-jersey-wearing cyclist scuffs Buggin’ Out’s Air Jordans and gets an earful from black Bedford-Stuyvesant denizens for moving into the neighborhood.

“We predicted gentrification,” Lee said.

The filmmaker argued that the displacement of poor people of color is happening everywhere, and said attention needs to be paid to where they end up.

“Gentrification, it’s not just the borough. This city. This country. It’s happening all over the world,” Lee said. “But the thing that everyone neglects to talk about is where do the people go that get displaced?”

“By Any Means Necessary: A Spike Lee Joints Retrospective” at BAM Rose Cinemas [30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. Through July 10. Various times. $14.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Coming-of-age story: Precious Peoples, left, and her husband Willie brought their daughter Tami out for the festivities.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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