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Meet Cinque Lee (Spike's Younger Brother), Writer/Director Of 4 Feature Films You Likely Haven't Seen

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 21, 2013 2:34 PM
14 Comments
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It may not be widely-known that Spike Lee's younger brother, Cinque Lee, is also a filmmaker (as well as actor, producer, editor, composer and more), and has written and directed 4 feature-length films since the late 80s, all independently financed, produced and distributed.

There was a drama (maybe he's most accessible work) called Nowhere Fast, made for just $29,000 in 1995, and is described as "a film powerfully weaved together through stories of its desperate characters and depicting the dangerous hours they face during one fateful day."

The list of desperate characters includes junkies, prostitutes, thieves, dealers, dopers, mental patients, street people, and a failed magician, all whose lives intersect on streets during a scorchingly-hot Friday afternoon in Brooklyn. 

Do The Right Thing Part 2 possibly?

Next is a sci-fi film called Windows On Your Present, made for $50,000, and co-starred his sister, Joie Lee (who has also been featured in a few of Spike's earlier films).

In that film, two characters, Europe and Leber, "lost souls in a world where love and color have never existed," stumble upon a pill that transports them to a world of color and love for a short time. After the effects of the pill wear off, they are returned to their depressing world of no color. They decide to search for the source of the pills and consume enough of them to never return.

This was made the late 80s, and is only now getting a release (see below for info). Sounds intriguing... we rarely get to see black people in sci-fi flicks, especially the more seemingly cerebral kind.

Next was a 2004 film called UR4 GIVEN, made for just $12,000; a drama centered on Monica, a 27-year-old woman and a victim of child abuse, is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, splintered personality, flashbacks, repressed memories, and migraines. To help combat her demons she interviews victims of child abuse on camera, and eventually realizes that she has to confront her own demons. She returns to her small hometown to revisit the place where her rapes took place, and, while there, she runs into the man who raped her as a child, but he has no idea who she is. Instead of telling him who she is, she hatches a plan to exact revenge, one that could cost her her life.

Hmmmm... curious.

And finally, his most recent work, made in 2010, titled Burn Out The Day, which focuses on a same sex couple looking for a surrogate mother for their baby.

So how can you see any of these films if you wanted to?

Well, I was just reading THIS interview with Cinque at TrashWire.com, in which Cinque talks about his cinematic influences/inspirations, and also how you can pickup a copy of Windows On Your Present, which was released on DVD via BrinkDVD, even though it was initially put together in late 80s.

As Cinque notes in the interview:

The movie took forever to make because I would change what I wanted or didn’t know what I wanted so I would put it away and come back to it years later here and years there. Having all the time I had to finish, I got what I wanted and so know I wouldn’t change anything.

This therefore qualifies as he latest release, which you can purchase HERE for about $15.

At least one of Cinque's other works is available on home video - Nowhere Fast. It was on Netflix (as a DVD rental, but doesn't appear to be anymore. And you can probably find it for sale on Amazon via indie resellers for less than $2 (HERE).

Riddle me this... I'm wondering if Spike ever talks publicly about his brother's independent filmmaking efforts, or whether he's been involved in getting any of them produced.

Or maybe it's the other way around, and Cinque wants to pave his own way, without Spike's interference. 

I wonder what Spike thinks of Cinque's films; I wonder what Cinque thinks of Spike's films.

The brothers have worked together in the past - notably, co-writing (along with sister Joie) the screenplay for Crooklyn.

I keep forgetting to ask Spike about Cinque during press junkets (most recently for Oldboy 2 weekends ago).

I found 2 trailers - one for Windows On Your Present, and one for Burn Out The Day; both embedded below.

I should note that, in the TrashWire interview, Cinque states that Andrei Tarkovsky and The Cocteau Twins have been of great influence on him. And if you're familiar with either (Tarkovsky should obviously ring the bell for most filmmakers and cineastes reading this), then you'd have some idea of what to expect from the man's work.

Cinque also reveals that he's been working on a graphic novel for years, and he's also developing a "whacked out kids show."

He's also appeared in at least 2 Jim Jarmusch movies by the way.

Lastly, that's him the photo above, on the left; I couldn't find a large enough, good, clear recent picture of him alone anywhere online; this was the best one, taken in April 2011, at an event in which his work was spotlighted, at New Jersey City Univesity. I think the woman next to him was one of the students in attendance.

Watch the trailer for Windows On Your Present first (underneath, you'll find a teaser for Burn Out The Day):


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14 Comments

  • Neziah | January 17, 2012 5:58 PMReply

    I just ordered his two available films, so I'm curious to see if they're as good as Spike's work.

  • tolly devlin | January 15, 2012 6:29 AMReply

    For those who remember Jim Jarmusch's Midnight Train Cinque Lee was in that as the bellhop/desk clerk sharing screen time with Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

  • Reelblack | January 14, 2012 6:39 PMReply

    Great post. I've always been a Cinque Fan.

  • P.M. Usanga | January 13, 2012 10:16 PMReply

    Wow. I'm really feeling his work. I hope his work becomes more mainstream. I will be renting his film's on Netflix. Being an indie filmmaker myself, it gives me a great feeling seeing you give great artists the shine they deserve. Thank you! I love S&A.

  • Tamara | January 11, 2012 9:38 AMReply

    I just added "Nowhere Fast", though looking at it, I think I might've seen it before... Or was at one time aware of it. I see the Tarkovsky in "Windows...".

  • Celluloidread | January 10, 2012 10:27 PMReply

    Cinque Lee is also an amazing still photographer. He shot the black and white stills used in the interludes for "She's Gotta Have It."

  • celluloidread | November 21, 2013 4:45 PM

    You are absolutely right.

  • urbanauteur | January 14, 2012 1:55 PM

    @CELLULOIDREAD, correction it was his other brother-David Lee.

  • Neziah | January 10, 2012 10:23 PMReply

    Wow, didn't know about this guy. Will definitely check out his work.

  • D. Misha | January 10, 2012 8:13 PMReply

    Tambay! Keep diggin' in the stacks to unearth these gems! While the MSM focuses on studio releases - I feel that the VOD/streaming market is a fine vehicle to promote viewing of all these types of "hidden" films and talent.

  • Adam C | January 10, 2012 7:53 PMReply

    OMG I walk past him all the time in Fort Greene Brooklyn, didnt know that was Spike's brother. How do you pronounce his name

  • human | March 22, 2012 10:58 PM

    Pronounced sankee

  • Lumumbaa | January 10, 2012 10:16 PM

    @ Adam, I believe it is pronounced "sin kay"' like the enslaved Afrikaner who led the Amistad uprising...

    Great article...

  • Wanett | January 10, 2012 8:17 PM

    I've seen him around the hood before, too.

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