What we call the indie film movement has its roots in Kubrick, Corman, and Cassavetes, but it really popped off in 1989 with a pair of films: Stephen Soderberg's Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing. It's hard to overstate the impact of Spike Lee on a generation of filmmakers. He's like Jimi Hendrix was for guitarists. You either embraced his approach and iterated on it or you consciously rejected it and went in another direction. There was no ignoring him.
Lee has made some great films in the last three decades, such as last year's epic BlacKkKlansman, but Do The Right Thing remains a towering masterpiece of a film. It has also remained stubbornly relevant. The proxy fight over who gets to be on Sal's Pizza wall is reflected today in a hundred conversations on representation in media. The senseless police brutality inflicted on Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) looks like a dress rehearsal for the 2014 choking death of Eric Garner. The dilemmas faced by the protesters were hashed out by Lee before many of them were born.
The cast is among the most amazing ever assembled: Samuel L. Jackson, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Giancarlo Esposito, Martin Lawrence, the recently deceased Paul Benjamin, and, in her film debut, a former Soul Train dancer named Rosie Perez. Lee opened the film with Perez dancing to Public Enemy's anthem "Fight the Power" in what the film criticism website The Dissolve called the greatest pop music moment in film history.
Crosstown Theater's Arthouse film series will present the 30th anniversary of Do The Right Thing on Thursday, August 8th, at 7:30 p.m. The Memphis Flyer is giving away free tickets to the screening. If you would like to be in the drawing for two free tickets to the film, you can either email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message to our Facebook page. We'll draw names for the winner at noon on Thursday.