Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer" is a close look at "old time religion" in the African-American community, with a dark secret side

I hadn’t watched a “Spike Lee Joint” in a few years, and the drama “Red Hook Summer” (2012, from Variance and Image Entertainment) seems like the most intimate look inside the African-American community ever, this time in “The Hook”, the Red Hook area of lower Brooklyn.  This film has no connection to the thriller by that name that I reviewed here June 28.  The area has attracted interest because it was heavily flooded by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, not too long after this film was shot.
  
Flik Royale (Jules Borwn) arrives in Brooklyn  (from Atlanta) to spend the summer with his pastor grandfather Lourdes (Limary Agosto), who leads the “Lil’l Peace of Heaven Baptist Church” (several choir members are in the film).  Flik expects a summer of playground baseball and other recreation, but Lourdes wants him to get some old time religion.  Flik is already vegan (although that diet allows potato chips) and resists Lourdes’s ironically southern diet of including fried chicken. 
  
The film has a lot of church and old time gospel music in the first hour, reminding one of the 1982 classic “Say Amen, Somebody.”  (Somehow, I’m reminded of the fact that Lynchburg VA has named one of its expressways after the late Jerry Falwell.)  Flik befriends a mischievous girl in the congregation.  Gradually, tension builds, and a dirty secret in Lourdes’s past comes out into the open.  I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that it has to do with abuse of of a child, and of a congregation’s need to pay “love money” to get a pastor to go away.  Lourdes, however, thinks he has redeemed himself.
  
The official site is here.  Spike still uses his “40 Acres and a Mule” trademark for his productions.
  
  

The film can be rented “legally” from YouTube for $3.99.  I watched in on regular rental DVD (technically quite sharp); it’s available on Netflix Instant play to subscribers, too.  It’s long (a little over two hours).  

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