Celebrity Interviews: Spike Lee on "Bamboozled"




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Kam Williams

   It’s no secret that maverick director Spike Lee routinely ignores cinematic conventions and employs any device, which might add to the "squirm factor" of his audience’s viewing enjoyment.
Enter Bamboozled, undoubtedly Lee’s most controversial offering to date. This time Lee’s holding Hollywood’s feet to the fire with a scathing indictment accusing the entertainment industry of promulgating harmful black stereotypes.
   Bamboozled is suppose to get the audience buzzing in the theater lobby, coffee shops, classroom, bus stop, wherever people meet and discuss events.
   "It’s upsetting material," Lee says. "Where does it say that every film that comes out of Hollywood has to send people out of the theater happy. Summer’s over!"
   Lee’s always pushing the envelope with his edgy filmmaking topics and techniques, such as breaking through the conceptual fourth wall to allow his actors to address the audience directly.
   "This is not Scary Movie, no disrespect to Keenan (Ivory Wayans)" Lee says. "I’m glad they made $150 million. We have two different outlooks, two different approaches, and each one is valid. I’ve never ever done a film, saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to make $100 million on this one.’ That’s not the goal."
   Lee says he doesn’t think filmmakers should be a slave to the dollar, and let that dictate everything they do.
   "That’s not just the way I was raised," he says. "I never conducted myself that way. And I hope I never do."
   But ah, there’s even a rub in the ranks with Bamboozled. The film’s star, Keenan Ivory Wayans isn’t doing publicity for Bamboozled. During an interview with Blackflix.com last summer while promoting Scary Movie, Wayans wouldn't comment on the film.
   When asked what film was coming up next, Wayans simply said, he was going home. Lee admits he has some problems with the way the film turned out, plus he’s working non-stop on a show for ABC.
   "That’s all I will say on that," Lee says.
   Bamboozled’s subject matter and shocking images are going to continually cause controversy. Lee’s own reaction to old movies with whites in blackface brings forth anger, rage and sadness within him. And now he’s resurrecting those same images. So how does he expect his audience to react?
   "I try to stay away from answering that question about any of my films," Lee says. "Because I never want to dictate to my audience. I respect its intelligence, which is why I don’t believe in dumbing down filmmaking."
   However, television does, Lee says. Television has proven that if you continually spoon-feed people sub-par dog food long enough, after a while, they’re going to think it’s steak.
   Lee says it’s important to resurrect all the black stereotypes, because he believes we need to talk about it.
   "If you stay through the credits," Lee says, "you’ll see that I’m not making this stuff up. That’s an unfortunate aspect of our legacy. That is how we were thought of, as less than human beings. It had to take some sick minds, some sick, twisted, cruel minds to do that. And it was acceptable. If it weren’t, why would Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney put on blackface?"
   Lee says the whole point of Bamboozled is to point out that those types of films could still be made today.
   "I don’t think there’s anything in Bamboozled that couldn’t happen. It’s not a big stretch for a show like this to be a hit."
   Lee says many of the gangster rap videos are a present-day equivalent of a minstrel show, and there are some television shows which are offering borderline minstrelsy.
   "I’m not going to name them," Lee says. "It doesn’t do anybody any good. Just turn on the TV."
   Not to give away Bamboozled’s ending, but Lee says he never considered any other endings for his film other than its tragic climax.
   "If the film would have remained in the same mode, I’d have been just as guilty as Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayan’s character), doing a 21st Century minstrel show, but not showing any of the consequences," Lee says.



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