Filmmaker Spike Lee fires back at criticism

Chicago Tribune

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 18 2011 10:49 p.m. MST

CHICAGO — In a speech Tuesday at a college in Naperville, Ill., filmmaker Spike Lee said that the criticism of his visit from local Italian-American groups is a clear example of a double-standard being used against him.

"They said my films portrayed stereotypical images of Italian Americans," Lee said. "... But this is the oldest trick in the world. When the subject matter (of a film) is racism, they accuse you of that. They belittle your work. If one of my films deals with race — 'Oh, he's racist!' "

Last week, two Italian-American groups criticized North Central College administrators for inviting Lee to speak at the school during its week of celebrations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The groups said Lee's films, including "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever," stereotyped Italian Americans.

During his speech, Lee read racist quotations from movies made by Italian-American directors such as "The Godfather," "Goodfellas," "Casino" and "Saturday Night Fever" — many which used the n-word. These films, Lee said, portrayed stereotypes or used racial slurs against African Americans.

"In no way am I saying these directors are racist," Lee said, referring to a group that includes Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. "All of these are great films — except for one or two. And for the most part, these scenes describe actions between Italian American and African Americans, and they're not considered stereotypical images. Why the disconnect?"

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