Sal’s Pizzeria has been trading for 20 years and now represents one of just a couple of white businesses in a black area.
Tensions begin to surface in the most innocuous way when local activist Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito) berates the fact that owner Sal (Danny Aiello) exclusively has photos of white people on his board of fame in his restaurant: where are the African-American heroes?
History has proved time and time again that the smallest incident can lead to the biggest confrontations and this is a great match to use to ignite the flame of racial violence.
This was one of the most open, honest and realistic discussions of race in America at its time of release.
Spike Lee, known for courting controversy, didn’t let the critics down with this film, in which violence erupts in a normally quiet Brooklyn neighbourhood.
The story occurs against the backdrop of the hottest day of summer and there are definite symbolic overtones with regard to temperatures and tempers racing towards boiling point, both in this isolated incident and as a reflection of America in general.
It’s a clever metaphor that allows Lee to push people over the edge in a way that seems justified.
Spike Lee was asked to tone down the film’s climactic riot, triggered when pizza delivery boy Mookie (Lee himself) throws a dustbin through the window of the pizzeria owned by his Italian-American employer Sal.
“They wanted me to change the ending”, Lee scoffed. “They thought it was too down, not enough hope. They wanted Mookie and Sal to join hands and sing We Are The World or some shit like that. We weren’t doin’ it”.
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