Filmmaker, activist Spike Lee speaks at ASU Film Spark

Filmmaker Spike Lee visited ASU on Friday night, where he spoke at about his life, filmmaking, the Oscars and the importance of education.

Lee has been behind the camera for multiple films, including" Malcom X," "Do the Right Thing" and his recent blockbuster, "Chi-Raq." Lee is also credited for giving actress Halle Berry for first movie role in his film “Jungle Fever.”

Lee opened the night by joking about the current presidential election and Republican candidate Donald Trump, where the candidate made a reference to his penis size during Thursday night’s GOP debate.

“I had a horrible nightmare that Trump had won,” Lee joked. “I didn’t know the prerequisite to be president was the size of your penis size.”

Lee stressed the importance of education, especially in communities of color where Lee said education opportunities were not always given to non-whites.

“There was a time in this country where it was illegal to read or write,” Lee said. “Our ancestors risked their lives for education.”

Lee spoke directly to college students, where he encouraged ASU students to pursue majors that highlight their passions and not worry about what their parents want or how much money they will make. 

“I am doing what I love and when you have a job that you love, it’s not a job anymore,” Lee said. “Hopefully, you all haven’t chosen a major because it makes your money. Follow what makes you happy.”

Lee has recently been vocal about his position on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, where he, along with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, decided to boycott the Oscars. Lee said it wasn’t necessarily the Oscars that were at fault, but the major studios in Hollywood.

“The battle isn’t with the African-Americans, it’s with the studios and the gatekeepers,” Lee said. “Until there’s more diversity in there, it’s not going to change.”

Lee ended with giving ASU students yet another piece of advice that he wished he had known when he was a student.

“This business is tough,” Lee said. “There is no such thing as overnight success. Whatever you want to do you have to bust your ass.”

Computer information systems junior Senate Kidane said she had been an avid follower of the filmmaker for years and she wanted to hear him speak about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

“I’ve known Spike Lee for literally as long as I can remember,” Kidane said. “He’s always in the news when it comes to diversity issues and Black Lives Matter, so I was interested in what he had to say — especially because recently he decided to boycott the Oscars. I wanted to hear his perspective and why he decided not to go.”

Justice studies and urban planning senior Keenan Coppin-Thom said he liked Spike Lee as a person and really appreciated how much confidence Lee had.

“I liked the fact that he said ‘I never lost my confidence,’” Coppin-Thom said. “Because even through times of turmoil, uncertainty and missed opportunities, maintaining confidence is so crucial. So the fact that he said that stuck with me and it was reassuring to hear somebody as successful as him say that.”


Reach the reporter at sgreene6@asu.edu or follow @thesydneygreene on Twitter.

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