Director: Spike Lee (US)
The US independent scene flourished in the 1980s, as film-makers such as John Sayles and Jim Jarmusch crafted distinctive movies far removed from the Hollywood studio system. And arguably, the movement’s most important director was inspired by those early trailblazers.
Spike Lee has long used New York as the backdrop for his films, never more memorably than in Do The Right Thing (1989). Chronicling one long, hot day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn, this comedy-drama touched on real-life racial incidents such as the 1983 police killing of black graffiti artist Michael Stewart.
But despite the incendiary finale — the death of a hip-hop fan, the ensuing riot — Do The Right Thing was as sage as it was sad and angry, examining how the US’s melting pot had become a morass of mistrust and animosity.
Lee, who wrote the script in Christmas 1987, competed for the Palme d’Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and earned an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.
But since then, he has matured from a firebrand provocateur into a gifted, vibrant artist whose heart still very much resides in the independent world.
In the past 10 years, he’s swung from sleek studio fare such as Inside Man (2006) to the low budget Passing Strange (2009) and Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus (2014). And he’s helped open the door to other African-American film-makers — from John Singleton to Justin Simien, whose 2014 debut Dear White People continues Do The Right Thing’s frank debate on race and class.