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February 09, 1990 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-02-09
This is a tabloid page

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Hughes and Lee: Poet and Filmmaker


Those who missed Do The
Right Thing this past summer.
probably didn't attend many
cocktail parties, and most likely
totally missed the gist of all
afternoon TV from Oprah
Winfrey to Donahue, because the
film was on the minds and

Black filmmakers series continues with
two documentaries

in every area from extras to
construction, and cleared out two
crack houses with the help of
Lee's hired security force, the
Flower of Islam.
The second
in a month-long
series sponsored
by the Program
in Film and
Video Studies
and the Center
for Afroamerican
and African
Studies, with the
support of the
Parks visiting
scholars program,
St. Clair
Bourne's Making
"Do The Right
Thing" chronicles
the ten week
period of Lee's
film. In addition,
Bourne filmed
neighborhood before and after the
film crew's presence to examine
its effects.
The documentary features
interviews with the film's stars
(Danny Aiello,.Ossie Davis, Ruby
Dee, and others), interviews with
Lee himself, and reactions from

the cast and crew. Bourne
captures Spike Lee in the process
of directing, and intercuts the
production footage with scenes
from the aftermath of the Howard
Beech incident, on which Do The
Right Thing was loosely based.
Bourne has described his work on
Making "Do The Right Thing" as a
labor of love, some of the best
work he's done.
Bourne began his career with
public television's Black Journal
series, and has since become one
of the most prolific Black
documentarians. After being
expelled from both Georgetown
and Columbia for his involvement
in the Black student movements,
he was recruited to be a producer
for Black Journalin conjunction
with documentarian William
Greaves. Through their struggles
to make films in the '60s, Bourne
credits himself and other
filmmakers with having paved the
way for contemporary Black
artists such as Lee and Robert
In addition to his issue-
oriented documentaries, Bourne
has made two specifically
biographical films. The first
portrays the life of Amiri Baraka,
the former Leroi Jones, while the
second depicts the life, work, and
times of Langston Hughes.

Langston Hughes: The Dream Keeper
examines the African-American
poet-writer's influence from the
'20s Harlem Renaissance to the
Black Pride movement of the
Hughes' life fleshes out
through scenes of Senegal Africa,
the land which inspired much of
his poetry, through comments
from James Baldwin and others
who knew Hughes, and through
poetry and performances by other
artists. Langston Hughes: The
Dream Keeper also evaluates
Hughes' role in both Black and
mainstream American literature,
specifically his use of jazz and
blues in his poetry.
Through the eyes of the man
who shaped the Black
documentary, the effects of two
influential Black artists - past
and present - bring to life our
rich history of Black and African-
American art.
Making "Do The Right Thing"
and Langston Hughes: Dream
Keeper will be shown on Friday,
February 9, in Lorch Auditorium,
at 7p.m. Filmmaker St. Clair
Bourne will be in 2520 Frieze
Building for an informal chat with
students on Saturday, February
10, from 10a.m. to 12noon.
byden Bilik


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Spike Lee and St. Clair
Bourne discuss the
making of Do the Right

tongues of the country.
Filmed on location in the
Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant
neighborhood, Do The Right
Thing's production is notable in
part because of its relationship to
the residents. Spike Lee and crew
solicited community cooperation


Stanley and Iris: a film with a cause


They almost escaped a
clich6. Late in the movie Stanley
and Iris, there is a scene where
Stanley (Robert DeNiro) is
reading aloud in a library. It is his
triumphal achievement: his
conquest over illiteracy. Given
the previous formulaic aspects
that had occurred in the movie,
one would have expected him to
read something noble or
meaningful in this scene. Instead,
he reads passages about engines
and manure - decidedly non-
formulaic. But, he then randomly
picks up a book, randomly opens
to a page, and reads from the
Book of Genesis, "...and-there-

was-LIGHT!" Oh well.
Predictability aside, Stanley
and Iris is not a bad movie.
DeNiro as Stanley and Jane
Fonda as Iris turn in their usual
solid performances, and they're
almost cute as they inevitably fall
in love. Iris riding home on the
handlebars of Stanley's bicycle;
Stanley standing in the rain,
asking Iris to teach him to read
just as the bus door closes-
definitely cute.
Iris works on the production
line in a huge snack factory,
making Twinkie and Ho-Ho
look-alikes. The drudgery of her
life is made immediate; spending

all day flipping muffins or
squirting icing on chocolate
snackcakes is as close to being a
drudge as she can stand to get.
The intrusion of Stanley upon
her life is almost a relief from
her job and her troubles at
home, since the task of
teaching him to read lets her
forget her own problems. Of.
course things can't be made
too easy, she still has to recover
from the recent death of her
husband. Stanley's simple .
charm, though, eventually
woos her. While performing his
lessons of reading aloud simple
sentences, Stanley says, "'The-

girl-has-a-fish-in-her-hand.' It's
not exactly a cliffhanger."
The film itself loses any
charm it had in the last 20
minutes. The slow pacing that
was set throughout the film
suddenly accelerates to
schizophrenic jumps from scene
to scene. Their first time in bed
suddenly appears in mid-thrust
and quickly ends; he suddenly
gets a job, he moves, he
reappears. The realism of this last
part is lost without the deliberate
pace, and the advances Stanley
makes are trivialized by their
quickness and the extent to
which they are taken. The last

line of the movie - "Iris,
anything is possible" - should
be appended with "especially in
the last 20 minutes."
The real story of Stanley and
Iris is Stanley overcoming his
illiteracy which had denied him
many aspects of life that a literate
person takes for granted: driving
car (can't take the written test);
reading the names of streets, or a
baseball scoreboard, or a
newspaper.headline. Illiteracy
affects far more than a person's
book reading habits. Fonda and
DeNiro seemed to place a greater
emphases on the campaign
against illiteracy instead of


"Dial 2 and see what happens!" reads a hand-painted sign near the outdoor phone of the
Student Activities Building.
Wiping the building's fogged windows, peering in, you notice no one's around. After all,
it's around midnight.
Suddenly, a faint glow appears from the basement.
A compassionate disc jockey responds to your rotary dial. Sweet rhythm and blues, along
with sounds of laughter, flow from the phone's earpiece. You're invited in. The buzzer rings.
The door opens. Free, or rather, free-form at last...
Welcome to WCBN 88.3 Ann Arbor. We're here to guide you through the barren wasteland which is

by Donna Iadipaolo
Photos by Amy Feldman


Febtuary 1,1990

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