This is a film for anybody who has felt the need to reinvent him or herself. With a strong sense of humanity, director Spike Lee traces Malcolm X’s (Denzel Washington) move from petty crime to his conversion first to the Nation of Islam, then to a more universal vision of Islam. Producer Marvin Worth had known Malcolm X during his days as a numbers runner, and he optioned the rights to his life story in 1967 but it took over 20 years to bring it to the screen. Several writers attempted screenplays, but when Lee came on board, he chose the first one, written by James Baldwin and Arnold Perl. Originally, Warner Bros. would not give Lee the budget he needed for the film, and when he ran out of money during post-production, prominent black Americans like Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey gave him the money to finish it properly. What they saved was one of the great biographical films: Lee delivered an intelligent epic with an effortless performance by Washington, who completely vanishes within the role. In addition, he has strong support from Angela Bassett, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo and Albert Hall, not to mention cameos by Nelson Mandela and Ossie Davis, who reads the elegy he wrote and delivered at Malcolm X’s funeral.
(d. Spike Lee, 202m, 35mm)
In attendance: Spike Lee