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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Red Hook Summer
Directed by Spike Lee
Image Entertainment 08/12 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - brief violence, language, a disturbing situation
Silas Royale (Jules Brown) calls himself "Flik" and as a technologically advanced teenager from Atlanta, he is addicted to his iPad 2. Seeking a break from looking after him on her own, his mother (De'adre Aziza) drops him off for a summertime stay with his grandfather Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters), a feisty preacher man who serves as bishop of Lil' Peace of Heaven Baptist Church.
This gregarious old timer is a well-known fixture in the Red Hook community of poor people. What his small congregation lacks in size, it makes up for in energy. The young man who plays the organ is a zealous musician whose creative flair stirs Enoch on during worship services. The whole congregation joins in the singing and dancing.
Flik is not too happy when Enoch gives him some odd jobs to do at the church under the direction of Deacon Zee (Thomas Jefferson Byrd), an alcoholic who is very upset by the inequalities in America, especially the gap between the rich and the poor. Almost immediately, Flik gets in trouble with the local gang leader (Nate Parker), a drug-dealer who grabs the boy's iPad when he realizes that this outsider has filmed him as well as other people in the community; fortunately the bishop is able to talk him into giving Flik's prized possession back.
Flik's only real ally is Chazz (Toni Lysaith), a member of his grandfather's church and daughter of Sister Sharon (Heather Alicia Simms), a trustee. Although she flirts with Flik and is sassy with him, he is not an emotional person. Enoch tries every trick in the convert book to bring this young unbeliever to the Lord but they all fall flat.
Veteran film director Spike Lee can always be depended upon for thought-provoking movies that probe the lives and experiences of African Americans as they struggle to come to terms with their identity in a society that is still racist. In Red Hook Summer, he tells the coming-of-age story of a well-to-do black boy from Atlanta who attends a private school and shows little interest in the African-American culture of his grandfather. While the residents in the projects of the Brooklyn neighborhood deal with drugs, unemployment, crime, police indifference, poverty, and disappointment with a black president who promised to bring change to their lives; all this passes by Flik's radar as all his attention is focused on his iPad.
Not even the shocking secret that shatters Enoch and the members of his congregation can arouse much empathy or compassion in Flik. These scenes are hard to watch and only serve to underline the explosive power of sexual issues on all levels of society. They also point out that some sins are seen as unforgivable even in the eyes of drug dealers.
Special features on the DVD include director's commentary; music video, and a behind the scenes featurette.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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