Spike Lee is currently re-editing his docuseries NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½ after some backlash. He faced immediate criticism over some comments he made to The New York Times. Here’s what’s going on.
Lee And 9/11
Lee is inextricably linked to his home of New York City. His films like Crooklyn and Do The Right Thing bring the Big Apple to life in a way few directors are capable of. It should come as no surprise, then, that Lee would be affected by the tragedy of September 11th. 2021 is the twentieth anniversary, and Lee is marking the occasion with a documentary.
It’s worth noting that Lee’s already made one feature film about 9/11: 25th Hour with Edward Norton and Philip Seymour Hoffman. it explored how some in the city were living their lives literally and figuratively in the shadow of ground zero. It’s often ranked among the best 9/11 films ever made and is one of Lee’s best works of the new millennium. Therefore, one can expect him to bring light to a topic that he’s found complexity and brilliance in before.
Anyway, Lee sat down with the New York Times to discuss his documentary. He was asked why he spent so much time in the final episode exploring 9/11 conspiracy theories. His answer made waves: “I got questions. And I hope that maybe the legacy of this documentary is that Congress holds a hearing, a congressional hearing about 9/11…The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached.”
The phrase “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” has entered meme culture as one of the most common, and regularly debunked, conspiracy theories about 9/11. Lee added that he wanted his audience to “make up your own mind.” When challenged further, he said people have always been critical of him, yet he continues to work.
In The Editing Room
Critics were quick to point out that the final episode of NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½ gave perhaps more credence to conspiracy theories than Lee had intended. He’s gone back to touch up the final episode, presumably cutting the “truther” parts out, before it airs on September 11. It sounds like the docuseries will have a lot more in common with Lee’s recent work, like Da 5 Bloods or Academy Award winner BlaKkKlansman than his Hurricane Katrina documentary When The Levees Broke.
NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½ is currently airing on HBO Max. The miniseries runs through four episodes and juxtaposes New York in 2001 with New York in 2021. Time will tell how muted the conspiracy theories are in the final product.