Lee, Spike (Shelton Jackson Lee), 1957-, American filmmaker, b. Atlanta, Ga. He gained recognition as a student at New York Univ. with his graduation film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1982). His films usually celebrate the richness of African-American culture and address such problems as racism, sexism, and narcotics addiction. She's Gotta Have It (1986), a low-budget film mainly about sexual relations and attitudes, established Lee as a commercially viable director. His Do the Right Thing (1989) presented the complexities and tensions behind interracial relations. Many of his later films have been controversial—Jungle Fever (1991), an exploration of interracial relations and attitudes; Malcolm X (1992), based on the life of the African-American leader; Clockers (1995), a violent portrait of life at the lowest reaches of the drug underworld; Girl 6 (1996), a high-spirited portrayal of a young woman in the phone sex business; and The Original Kings of Comedy (2000), a series of racially charged stand-up routines by four contemporary African-American comedians. He turned to documentary with 4 Little Girls (1996), a moving study of the fatal 1963 bombing of a black Alabama church, and the made-for-TV When the Levees Broke (2006), a harrowing portrayal of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans. Lee broke with his traditional style and subject matter to make Inside Man (2006), a polished heist movie.
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