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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Thursday's Connector – Spike Lee

August 13th, 2010
07:03 PM ET

Fueled by the success of his independent debut film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’, Spike Lee became the first notable black filmmaker to appear on the American scene in many years.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/16/spike.art.gettyimages.jpg
caption="Spike Lee is your Connector of the Day."]

A graduate of New York University's film school, Lee has won acclaim for his films examining race relations, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and other political issues.

Born Shelton Jackson Lee, in Atlanta, Georgia, on the eve of the civil rights era, Lee spent his formative years in Brooklyn, New York, an area that would figure largely in his work as a mature filmmaker.

His awareness of his African American identity was established at an early age. His mother, Jacquelyn, infected her children with a schoolteacher's enthusiasm for black art and literature.

Since 1983, his production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films. Lee’s film Do the Right Thing was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989.

Many people, including some in Hollywood notables such as Kim Basinger, believed that Do the Right Thing also deserved a Best Picture nomination.

In his upcoming documentary, If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, Lee returns to New Orleans to examine how the ambitious plans to rebuild Crescent City have panned out.

What would you like to ask Spike Lee? Now's your chance to send in your questions, and don't forget to tell us where you're writing from!

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Joe

    When you talked to people in Mississippi, was the recovery better handled? Did Governor Barbour treat poor people fairly?

    August 13, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  2. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee and CNN friends,

    I would like an answer from Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee on the following questions:
    – What is your opinion on the way Barack Hussein Obama is Improving All American Souls During the Economic crisis and the Afghanistan & Pakistan Wars?

    – What is your opinion on the way Barack Hussein Obama handling the Heroin, Cocaine and Marihuana use in the Dark side of the Entertainment World in the United States of America?

    – What can we expect from you in 2010?

    I am awaiting Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee’s replies.

    Jurgen R. Brul
    Hometown: Paramaribo
    Country: Suriname

    August 14, 2010 at 3:11 am | Reply
  3. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee and CNN friends,

    I would like an answer from Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee on the following questions:

    – What is your opinion on the way Barack Hussein Obama is Improving All American Souls During the Economic crisis and the Afghanistan & Pakistan Wars?

    – What is your opinion on the way Barack Hussein Obama is handling the Heroin, Cocaine and Marihuana use in the Dark side of the Entertainment World in the United States of America?

    – What can we expect from you in 2010?

    I am awaiting Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee’s replies.

    Jurgen R. Brul
    Hometown: Paramaribo
    Country: Suriname

    August 14, 2010 at 3:30 am | Reply
  4. Jonesnk1

    We know millions of dollars in donations were made after the Hurricane to help people recover and rebuild. In your opinion, has that money made it to those who need it most? Are there still people struggling with recovery issues five years later?

    August 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  5. KJo32

    I heard that Mississippi took money that was supposed to go to help people re-build their houses after the storm, and is using it to build a port. Is that true?

    August 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  6. Kimberly Owens

    Greetings Mr. Lee,

    I am a huge fan of your work and appreciate the vision that you expel onto the screen. You bring such power and dignity to the characters that you bring to the screen ... and whether they be fictional or real, they always purge power and dignity throughout the film.

    Have you ever considered producing a biopic on the late Florence Ballard (the late original member of the Supremes) or Phyllis Hyman? Their lives were so filled with passion and tragedy, and they were unsung musical goddesses in their own right and it's important that their stories are told .... I'd try out for a part in both if you produce them.

    Respectfully yours,

    Kim Owens
    New Haven, Connecticut

    August 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  7. Canela

    Can you share your metaphysical thoughts on the state of the world today?

    August 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  8. ShowKase

    Hello Mr. Lee,

    What are your thought's on the lack of black women in minstream movies roles?

    August 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  9. Abdulllah

    Dear Spike Lee,

    Because it seems that Islam seems to be on everyone's mind these days (especially the media's) what do you think of Malcolm's realization of Islam becoming a major faith in America? Do you believe it will actually happen, and when? Furthermore, if Malcolm X was still alive today, do you think he would have turned around all the anti-Islamic sentiment we're witnessing from day to day in the U.S.?

    Best Regards,

    August 16, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  10. Lyn

    Hi Mr. Lee! Though we have an African American president, I know he is not the "messiah." What can we do to eradicate the violence within the African American community? And why do you think many of us, as African Americans, choose to stay uninvolved in community matters?

    Thank you very much and God bless you and your family.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  11. Claire

    For Malcolm X, you faced the studio threatening to pull the film away from you, and then you were able to raise capital from individual investors in order to finish. Do you think you would rather work independently, based on this experience, or was that an anomaly in the Hollywood scheme of things? Also, do you think this was attempted due to the subject matter of the film, and the studio being afraid of the final product?

    August 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  12. aloma alber

    do you have any plans to work with the cousteau foundation to tell the real story of what might be happening to the world's sealife in the gulf and elsewhere...I am so glad you did the gulf film and I love the title and let me know if I can help in any way with the next production.

    August 16, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  13. Alex abraham

    Mr.Spike lee in light of current world affairs and the September Elven tragedy what is your opinion on the role that Islam played in the history of African Americans struggle for civil rights and the history of the united states at large was this opinion shaped in anyway by your work on the film about Malcolm X?
    Marina, CA

    August 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  14. ATLPie

    Can you make a movie about Henrietta Lacks please? Her immortal cells have been used in research all over the world and in space, have been used to develop vaccines for Polio and other diseases, have made pharmacutical compainies rich, and her family is poor. Thank you.

    August 16, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  15. Drake Fruit

    Do you think it is still necessary to speak strongly about race issues during this period where racial segregation has reduced drastically?..e.g Obama becoming the 1st black president.

    August 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  16. George Patton

    Hi Spike:
    My novel Black Jack -A Drama of Magic: About my great uncle legendary magician Black Herman and his wife Eva the "Woman Buried Alive"; titular heads of the Harlem Renaissance who entertained thousands and warned of the coming of the Great Depression ["They should call it White Tuesday instead of Black Tuesday. Our people didn't have stocks or bonds to worry about losing"] Submitted through your casting agent, whom I met at ABFF conference in South Beach, the day Michacel Jackson died. Did you get a chance to look at it? (I saw a signed copy on Amazon selling for twice the asking price.)
    This romantic tale will make a great movie with Alicia Keys playing Eva. Well, Eva died this March at age one hundred eleven! (Just after my appearance on The Daily Buzz). Seventy-five years after her husband died mysteriously on stage. As she told Willard Scott: Her longevity was due to her "Strong faith in the Lord!"

    August 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Reply

    Hi Spike:
    Did you get to take a look at my novel Black Jack -A Drama of Magic? Submitted through your casting agent whom I met at ABFF in South Beach, the day Michael died.
    Black Herman was the black Houdini and Eva, "The Woman Buried Alive", was his star. Eva died this year at age one hundred eleven, (weeks after my apearance on The Daily Buzz). Seventy- six years after Herman died mysteriously on stage, April 14, 1934.
    I think this romantic tale of magic and mystery in the era of Harlem Renaissance and Jim Crow would make a magnificent addition to your stable of successes.
    Question? Will you make my movie?

    August 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  18. sammieb51

    I so enjoyed your series "When the Levees Broke" – such accurate reporting of corrupt power failing on so many levels. Are there any plans to do a follow up to see how recovery has progressed and if it changed the city at all?

    Since the failure of the levees was due to severe budget cuts to the Corps of Engineers– I can't help but notice today, all the rivers and streams that are overflowing their banks all over the country. Is there a levee or dam system in place in these areas? If so, why are these rivers overflowing with such frequency? Ames Iowa for example. Why not go there and feature that city, in the the heartland of our political process – a combination of infrastructure problems (water main break) combined with increased rainfall - attack two systems at once - crumbing infrastructure in our country and the massive effect global warming or climate change is having on our country or world.

    This country is not waking up, they are still asleep and now having nightmares (the tea party)! And don't confuse them with the truth!

    August 16, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Reply
  19. monika

    Can you give and advice to young filmmakers of the whole world, especially to those who are discriminated (race, sex, nationality etc.)?

    August 16, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  20. John

    Spike, I've always wanted to ask, in your film "Do The Right Thing", is the character of Sal played by Danny Aiello intended to come across as racist? I've always thought Danny Aiello's performance was a sympathetic portrait of the character but was that as you intended?

    August 16, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  21. Bad Behavior

    When will you make a horror film?

    August 16, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  22. polly from Madrid

    Which movie are you most proudest of?

    Which is your all time favourite movie?

    What´s your favourite Michael Jackson song?

    August 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  23. Valarie Green

    Valarie Green-Atlanta ,GA
    'Hello Spike Lee,

    I would like to know what you have against Tyler Perry? I heard your recent comments about how his films remind you of Amos and Andy, coonery and buffonery.

    I was pretty shocked by your comments and just would like to know your basis for making the comment?

    August 16, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  24. Dr. Remick

    Hi there. I heard you were directing a documentary about the World Trade Center. What are your thoughts on the Mosque?

    August 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  25. Realist

    In the long run, will the decline of the American empire help or hinder relations between races in the U.S.?

    Will African-Americans ever become fully assimilated into mainstream America? If yes, what will be the primary impetus?

    August 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  26. Devon

    Mr. Lee I have a question...how do you deal with people who hear the truth but follow it not...those who are afraid to face the future and see their destiny manifested. Though most of all it is those whom see themselves mirrored through the clear eye's of someone who is wiser than they are so they seek to tarnish that mirror to make themselves feel better being unhappy with their own reflection. I know you struggle with this...sadly so do I. Do we give up? Or do I fight for the truth knowing the jackals are gathering to take me down for their fear of what I will say. I saw you in a dream Mr. Lee facing the same problem. So what will you do? How do you handle that problem?

    August 16, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Reply
  27. laalaa99stl

    Which of your films are you most proud of?
    Which has been the greatest disappointment?
    Which one or ones would you redo if you had the chance?

    August 17, 2010 at 12:03 am | Reply
  28. Wanda

    Dear Mr Lee,

    I was wondering if you would be interested in doing a doc on the people of the Cape Verde Islands-off the western coast of Africa.They are multicultural descendants of African, Portuguese, Jewish, Turkish, Middle Eastern, etc. peoples. A great number of Cape Verdeans-Americans live in Massachusetts but can be found all over the US.
    I am a 3rd generation Cape Verdean American.


    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely, wanda

    August 17, 2010 at 12:28 am | Reply
  29. American transport to Dakar

    Hello Mr. Lee. I am a HUGE fan. Your movie "School Daze" is the reason I attended an HBCU (Hampton University).

    I noticed the attack on the Black family in the media through statistics and studies such as 50% of black women have herpes, 80% of black women will not get married, etc. Do you think you will make any love movies? It would be very interesting to see a movie about Black love from a Black man's perspective.

    August 17, 2010 at 12:34 am | Reply
  30. Aimery Thomas

    I've been a big fan of Mr. Lee's work over the years, but I've always wanted to know if he's interested in doing a film on multiracial identity now that the world's population is progressively becoming more multiracial?

    "School Daze" and a few other films had some time for this issue, but race identity (in my interpretation) has always been coached in conflict between races within his body of work. I feel that the collective thesis of his movies was somewhat negative in regard to its understanding the conflict of racial identity in the individual... I wonder if he's reflected on or considered this issue in recent years?


    Aimery Thomas
    Sydney, Australia

    August 17, 2010 at 3:41 am | Reply
  31. Padmakumar Jayaram

    Hi Mr. Lee,
    I'm an aspiring indie filmmaker from Chennai, TN, India, and I just wanted to ask you, what keeps you inspired and going, from a filmmaker's perspective? What would your advice be to aspiring filmmakers for breaking into the industry? What is your source of inspiration?

    August 17, 2010 at 5:05 am | Reply
  32. Robert

    When was that one moment in your life when you decided to pursue film-making as a career?

    Cairo, Egypt

    August 17, 2010 at 5:36 am | Reply
  33. Sonya in Tx


    After your first documentary on hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath, did the Bush administration "Do The Right Thing" in the effort to rebuild the levees and the city?

    Have you been able to talk with people who have returned to New Orleans, and what do they think of the rebuilding efforts this many years later?

    ASre the poor sections of town "coming back" as fast as the richer sections?


    August 17, 2010 at 6:44 am | Reply
  34. SOUPY J.

    would you be interested in doing a movie about the attrocities of black american and african living in europe after world 1. what horrible crime commited to our people and the american and the british covered it all up. have you heard the phrase reinland basterd?. i have reports which gotten from the holocast meseum in flordia in 1993. many blacks resided in europe knowing their was nothing to go back in a racist america! why did speilberg over look this? did'nt he made the film call amistar, a story about slaves who commondear the ship and landed in new york a petition for their freedom. the attrocities of black who fought in world 1 ,and the crime commited aganists was'nt important in our history. get back to me . soupy j

    August 17, 2010 at 8:14 am | Reply
  35. P.J. Munks

    Hi Spike,
    When people ask me about growing up in brooklyn here in Denmark where I now reside I tell them about the wonderful balance of culture.
    Its been my experience in Cobble Hill Brooklyn. Whats your thoughts?

    August 17, 2010 at 8:31 am | Reply
  36. Adeodatus

    In one sentence for each, how do these folks "do the right thing" right now?
    1. President
    2. Government official
    3. Government staffer
    4. Government bureaucrat
    5. State or local Official
    6. State or local staffer
    7. State or local bureaucrat
    8. Director
    9. Actor
    10. Major CEO
    11. Minor CEO
    12. White Collar worker
    13. Blue Collar worker
    14. Teacher
    15. Student
    16. Single parent
    17. Homeless person
    18. Poet
    19. Soldier
    20. Hero
    21. Celebrity

    The list is not all inclusive but I hope to understand that perspective is everything. The system seems to be perpetuating its own oppression and the populous is numb to it.
    Atlanta, GA

    August 17, 2010 at 8:32 am | Reply
  37. Robert Rodriguez

    Affirmative action which followed civil unrest in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention in 1968 was a pacification program to keep minorities from rising up as they were doing at the time.

    With the collapse of sub-prime mortgages (many originating from Fannie and Freddie) do you believe that civil unrest is once again in our future?

    I watched the smoke rising up from Madison Ave. in Chicago following MLK's assassination.

    August 17, 2010 at 11:24 am | Reply
  38. amit khaira


    My question would be a movie-related one....Inside Man is one of my all time favorites, so it was nice to hear that u plan to direct " The Nagasaki Deadline" which i assume could be another mainstream thriller.

    I wanted to ask if it is indeed true that u have taken up this project , what is the latest development on it & when can we expect to see it in theaters.


    Amit Khaira

    New Delhi, India

    August 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  39. Drake Fruit

    Do you think it is still necessary to speak strongly about race issues during this period where racial segregation has reduced drastically?..e.g Obama becoming the 1st black president.

    United Kingdom.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  40. chukwuma

    I would like 2 ask spike that what is doing 2 improve african film in the world. nigeria

    August 18, 2010 at 8:30 am | Reply
  41. Abdelgadir a gadid

    Dear mr. Spike lee, i am so happy to see a great man history from past to the future. My question : what is the right thing after do the right thing? I have seen that movie over ten times.. You are our pride doing the right thing.. Thank you sir.

    August 18, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  42. christopher mwambingu

    high, big up to the good work ,cnn i salute you.i am christopher mwambingu from kenya working to empower rural women and youth on their rights.my questions are,is obama administration doing enough to promote justice,peace and human rights contrary to bush administration?should george bush junior be prosecuted in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the american war in iraque.

    August 19, 2010 at 9:17 am | Reply

    what artists from developing counties could do to improve the quality their work (movies)

    August 20, 2010 at 8:39 am | Reply
  44. Omar

    Kudos to all the work by lee

    August 20, 2010 at 10:02 am | Reply
  45. Daluv

    Lee i like ur style pls send me ur word.

    August 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Reply

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