Celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Do the Right Thing”

Sonoma State Film Institute is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the film “Do The Right Thing” directed by Spike Lee. 

There will be a screening of the film followed by a question and answer, on March 1 at 7 p.m. in Warner Auditorium. 

Additionally, one of the cast members who played Smiley, Roger Guenveur Smith, will be taking part in the Q&A, as well as a roundtable discussion following the next day at 10 a.m. in Ballroom C.

According to Sonoma Film Institute, Smith will be talking about “the rise of racial tensions and hate crimes in the United States,” as well as other political issues. 

Smith’s character, Smiley, holds significant meaning to the film and this screening is a great opportunity for Sonoma State students to hear him talk.

“Smiley is a metaphor for what happens in the film because no one can talk about it,” explains Communications professor Ethan de Seife. “Smiley can’t articulate the complexities of race as represented by the two poles of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and neither can anybody else.”

Spike Lee is an American film director, writer, producer, and actor who has made over 35 films under his company since graduating from Tisch School of Arts graduate film program. 

Lee is known for creating controversial pieces centered on race relations, racism in black communities and many other political issues. 

Although this is one of Lee’s earlier films, it is one of his most memorable. 

“I think it’s one of the most articulate cinematic statements on race and racial misunderstanding that has ever been made,” said de Seife, “It was highly relevant in 1989 and I think it is highly relevant 30 years later.”

Many students may think that a piece of film created 30 years ago doesn’t hold to be true just because it wasn’t made in their time. 

However, there are many themes central to this movie that gets not only more and more relevant over time, but it also starts happening closer to home than believed.

“Do The Right Thing” is set in his own neighborhood where he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. The film is a portrayal of racial and cultural differences in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood during a very hot summer day. 

As the temperature keeps rising so is the tension between various races such as Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Italians and Koreans. 

Over the last 30 years, the film has maintained its relevance, yet it is beginning to see more modernized interest as it still relates so closely to what we see in present day racial conflicts today like the innocent killing of unarmed blacks and police brutality.  

Some of the incidents in this film happen in places like the Bay Area.

“That’s just it — lives really are under constant threat 30 years after this film and 50 plus years after both MLK and Malcolm X were murdered,” said professor Marco Calvita.

The film has a clear underlying message that, the current of racism is normalized to us because as an audience that’s what we understand to be modern life in America. 

It easily depicts how the smallest spark can set off some of the biggest issues.

“Lee seems to be saying that African-Americans should not be expected to always and forever just continue to take murderous policies and treatment without fighting back, as Malcolm X says in his quote at the end of the film,” said Calavita.

Although it is not quite clear what Lee meant by “the right thing,” it is up to the audience to decide.