Red Hook Summer

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Red Hook Summer
Red Hook Summer film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySpike Lee
Written byJames McBride
Spike Lee
Produced bySpike Lee
StarringClarke Peters
Nate Parker
Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Toni Lysaith
Jules Brown
CinematographyKerwin DeVonish
Edited byHye Mee Na
Music byBruce Hornsby (score)
Judith Hill (songs)
Jon Batiste (Hammond B3 organ music)
Distributed byVariance Films
Release dates
  • January 2012 (2012-01) (Sundance)
  • August 10, 2012 (2012-08-10)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$338,803[1]

Red Hook Summer is a 2012 American film co-written and directed by Spike Lee. It is Lee's sixth film in his "Chronicles of Brooklyn" series following She's Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn, Clockers, and He Got Game.[2]


Flik Royale is a pampered 13-year-old boy from Atlanta who is sent to live with his preacher grandfather, Da Good Bishop Enoch Rouse, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.[3] Flik struggles to connect with his religious grandfather, and clashes with him over religion, technology, and other subjects. He develops a friendship with a girl named Chazz and encounters Box, a gangster who used to attend Enoch's church. In the midst of a sermon, a strange man strolls into the back of the church and accuses Bishop Enoch of sexual molestation 15 years earlier in Georgia. Enoch then admits that it was subsequently covered up by his church, which paid the boy's family hush money and let Enoch go free to start a new life in Brooklyn.[4] The news causes members of his new congregation to turn against him and for Box and his men to beat him. Flik is sent home to his mother, and says goodbye to Chazz.


Spike Lee appears briefly as Mookie, the main character from his 1989 film Do the Right Thing, wearing his original "Sal's Pizzeria" shirt.[5]


Principal photography lasted three weeks, "on a small budget, guerrilla-style, like Lee's first feature film."[6]

Red Hook Summer marked the first time that Lee appeared in one of his films since Summer of Sam (1999).


A 135-minute version of Red Hook Summer premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival;[7] The film was released on August 10, 2012, in select theaters of the New York City area[8] and was released in Los Angeles and other parts of the United States on August 24, 2012.[9] The film reached 41 theaters at its peak.[1]

The film was released on home video on December 21, 2012.[10]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 58% based on 66 reviews, with an average rating of 5.46/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Red Hook Summer is just as bold and energetic as Spike Lee's best work, but its story is undermined by a jarring plot twist in the final act."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 48 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "average or mixed reviews".[12]

Peter Debruge of Variety said "It's fiery, passionate stuff, at times inelegantly presented, but impossible to ignore."[13]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2½ out of four stars saying it "plays as if the director is making it up as he goes along. That's not entirely a bad thing, although some will be thrown off-balance by an abrupt plot development halfway through that appears entirely out of the blue and is so shocking that the movie never really recovers. Here is Lee at his most spontaneous and sincere, but he could have used another screenplay draft."[6]

Lee's commentary[edit]

In an audio commentary that accompanies the DVD,[14] Lee calls the film "another chapter in what I call my chronicles of...the Republic of Brooklyn, New York" (She's Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn, Clockers, He Got Game, half of Jungle Fever). It portrays the Red Hook Projects, where his co-producer and co-screenwriter, James McBride, grew up. The "Lil' Peace of Heaven Baptist Church of Red Hook" is actually the New Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 609 Clinton Street, which was born in McBride's parents' kitchen.[15] McBride grew up in that church.

It was all shot on location, within a 10-block radius, over 18 days, three 6-day weeks, "under the radar". In addition to the church, the real building at 79 Lorraine St. is used; the movie shows the address over the entrance. "People didn't know we were making a movie until filming started." Lee financed it out of his pocket; he had just bought a new camera.

None of the children had been in a movie before; he did not want professional child actors. He visited his old junior high school looking for actors, and the drama teacher was on the movie set "to keep the students focused". Lee's New York University graduate students also participated in the production.

Music is an important part of the movie. There are 11 songs by Judith Hill, an original score by Bruce Hornsby,[16] and a real church organist on the Church's Hammond organ.

Lee points out some small local themes in the movie:

  • "Asthma is one of the issues we deal with in this film," exacerbated by the air pollution brought by the cruise liners that call at Red Hook. (Lee is asthmatic.)
  • Gentrification. Around the central projects there is gentrification on both sides, represented by the fresh cement in front of a house, which the two child leads deface.
  • Technology — Flic's constant use of his iPad 2 (some of what he shot on his iPad was used in the movie); communicating via Skype with his mother.
  • The very controversial Ikea store.
  • Red Hook is the only place from which the front of the Statue of Liberty can be seen (it faces its donor nation, France).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Red Hook Summer at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ JP DelaCuesta. "Trailer For Spike Lee's New Joint "Red Hook Summer" Arrives". Retrieved 2012-07-01.
  3. ^ Staub, Dick (January 25, 2012). "Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer' Screened At Sundance Offers A Nuanced Overview Of African American Christianity". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  4. ^ Lapin, Andrew (August 29, 2012). "Spike Lee Wants You to Hate Him: In Defense of Red Hook Summer". The Atlantic.
  5. ^ Franich, Darren (2012-01-23). "Sundance: Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer'". Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  6. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (August 22, 2012). "Red Hook Summer". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-04-03. The movie was made in three weeks on a small budget, guerrilla-style, like Lee's first film, She's Gotta Have It. The speed and economy aren't fatal, but they certainly needed more time on the screenplay, and the only outstanding performance is by Clarke Peters (from The Wire).
  7. ^ "Red Hook Summer". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  8. ^ "Twitter / SpikeLee: RED HOOK SUMMER Opens 8/10". Retrieved 2012-07-01.
  9. ^ "Twitter / SpikeLee: Red Hook Summer Opens 8/24". Retrieved 2012-07-01.
  10. ^ "Red Hook Summer Blu-ray". 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2012-12-24.
  11. ^ "Red Hook Summer (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  12. ^ "Red Hook Summer Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  13. ^ Debruge, Peter (23 January 2012), "Sundance Reviews. Red Hook Summer", Variety, retrieved 2013-04-03
  14. ^ Lee, Spike (2013). "Director's commentary". Red Hook Summer.
  15. ^ Nelson, Annie. "New Brown Memorial Baptist Church. An enduring center of religious life". Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  16. ^ "Bruce Hornsby and Spike Lee collaborations". Retrieved May 6, 2019.

External links[edit]