A little over one week in theaters, and after a tremendous Christmas weekend opening for the film garnering $64 million, director Spike Lee might just have played a key role in the success of Quentin Tarantino's “Django Unchained.” His public refusal to see the western, calling it “disrespectful to my ancestors,” raised the film's profile to perhaps its highest political platform, and as fierce analysis of the ambitiously wild project continues post-release, another director has come to the movie's defense.
Recently most felt by his undeserved absence, director Antoine Fuqua joined in the debate from Italy, where the Capri Hollywood Film Festival is underway. Fuqua knows both Lee and Tarantino only professionally, but nonetheless opined that Tarantino “[doesn't have] a racist bone in his body," and that Lee took a wrong tact with his actions. "That's just not the way you do things," he said. "If you disagree with the way a colleague did something, call him up, invite him out for a coffee, talk about it. But don't do it publicly."
The “Training Day” director admitted he hadn't seen the Jamie Foxx-starring actioner either, but instead spoke to the generalities of its period and accuracy. “[We're] supposed to find some truth in films, and if you set a film in the 1850s, you're going to hear the word 'nigger,' " he said. “Because that's the way they spoke then, and you're going to discuss slavery because that was part of the reality." He added, "I want my kids to hear those kinds of words in the right context, so that they'll know that language is not OK."
It is that question of reality — and Tarantino's contextual intention behind using it — that represents a sliver of the fierce conversation starter that is “Django Unchained,” and in the dispute between these three filmmakers, the fact that only one has even seen the film hinders an accurate discussion. But for now, any word from Fuqua — last seen in 2009 with “Brooklyn's Finest” and now touting his upcoming Gerard Butler thriller, “Olympus Has Fallen” — is cause enough for a focus.
“Django Unchained” is in theatres now. [THR]