advertisement
advertisement

Spike Lee and Beats Music Fight The Power, Celebrate The 25th Anniversary Of “Do The Right Thing” With A New Doc

Lee returns to the old neighborhood, with cast members, new friends, and Beats.

Spike Lee and Beats Music Fight The Power, Celebrate The 25th Anniversary Of “Do The Right Thing” With A New Doc

Do The Right Thing is 25 years old now. This past week’s events in Ferguson, Missouri have made clear that the film’s depiction of racial tensions in America are still relevant (and Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” still sounds as good as ever)–but Spike Lee’s depiction of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn doesn’t necessarily resemble the Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy of 2014.

advertisement

Spike Lee–in partnership with Beats Music–revisited the locations and actors as part of a 22-minute documentary called Do The Right Thing 25 Year Anniversary: A Beats Music Experience. Lee tours the neighborhood with Danny Aiello (who played Sal, the owner of the film’s central location, Sal’s Pizzeria) and production designer Wynn Thomas, reminiscing about the places that were part of the filmmaking experience. Lee and his colleagues are charming throughout, excited to see buildings that they clearly haven’t visited in decades, but also thoughtful about the way the themes of Do The Right Thing resonate. Lee’s sister, Joie (who played Jade in the film) talks about how he was ahead of his time in conceiving the film–“I think he had insight into the whole gentrification thing”–and Lee declares that “Jon Savage’s character Clifton started gentrification in Bedford-Stuyvesant.”


The documentary is interspersed with footage from the original film, which helps viewers reminisce in the same way that Lee, Thomas, and Aiello do. Clifton’s encounter with Buggin’ Out–played by the future Gus Fring, Giancarlo Esposito–captures both the familiar frustration of long-time Brooklyn residents encountering people from out of state as neighbors and gives Breaking Bad fans a chance to remember the days before they were terrified of Esposito.

It’s fun to see Lee and his colleagues revisit their seminal work, but perhaps more interesting are the moments in which the neighborhood reflect on what the film meant to the community. One woman recalls how the film was used in advertising materials for a condo building that had been a location in the film. (“It’s a historic block,” she declares.)

advertisement

The second half of the documentary focuses on a block party that Lee and Beats Music threw in the neighborhood to celebrate the anniversary in late June. It looks like a fun party–people pose in Beats-branded Flava Flav-style clock necklaces (cuz you gotta know what time it is), and pass around giant cop-in-the-crosshairs Public Enemy logos (with the Beats logo on the other side, naturally); kids shoot basketballs at carnival-style games, and the Borough President of Brooklyn declares the day Do The Right Thing Day. The event culminates with appearances by Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle, and Wesley Snipes, a moment of silence led by a local community organizer, and the block of Stuyvesant Avenue on which the movie was filmed gets renamed “Do The Right Thing Way.” Everything ends with a performance of “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy themselves, of course.


The confluence of big branding money, social justice themes, entertainment, and neighborhood pride in the documentary is an unconventional stew, in some ways, but everything seems to have turned out as well as anyone could hope. At the very least, nobody throws a garbage can through a pizzeria’s window.

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club

More

#FCFestival returns to NYC this September! Get your tickets today!