In summer 1977, Lee’s friend gave him a Super 8 camera that he used to document what he remembers, like others do, as “the craziest summer.”
Unemployment was high, the city was in a financial crisis, a serial killer then only known as the Son of Sam was on a spree, and there was an infamous blackout during which the city erupted into chaos.
Lee recorded it all and then some.
After returning to school, Eichelberger encouraged him to do something with the footage. Born was a filmmaker who for more than 30 years has entertained, educated, predicted, informed, and illuminated the world through his work.
His latest, “The BlacKkKlansman,” earned Lee six Oscar nominations, including his first for directing and best picture. (Only six black directors have been Oscar-nominated for directing and none have won.)
The movie tells the story of a black detective who, in addition to breaking down boundaries at his Colorado police department, infiltrates the KKK.
Not since 1998, when his documentary feature “4 Little Girls” was nominated, has one of Lee’s films been in the running for an Oscar. (He won an honorary award in 2016.)
“Do the Right Thing,” which this year will celebrate its 30th anniversary, was Lee’s first Oscar-nominated film but not for best picture, an oversight that earned the Academy criticism at the time. That year, “Driving Miss Daisy” won best picture.
There is concern from those who see Lee’s accolades as overdue that this year might produce similarly disappointing results, but Lee is somewhat zen about it, at least outwardly.
“It’s out of my hands, you know?” he says. “I’m telling people now, win or lose, ‘BlacKkKlansman’ will be on the right side of history.”
A principle, one wonders, if the Academy will prove it has now learned.