“Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joints,” a short documentary series from ESPN Films that first premiered last summer, will return May 31 with four new films executive produced by the filmmaker. The films in the collection will merge African American and sports narratives, all directed by African American filmmakers.
Tackling topics that range from the Black Lives Matter movement on the University of Missouri campus, to former NBA star Stephon Marbury’s low-cost sneaker, “Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joints” will debut on ESPN’s new digital platform TheUndefeated.com. The site, which explores the intersection of sports, race, and culture, will support the films with additional digital content.
Shorts will premiere weekly on Tuesdays starting May 31, with the exception of June 14. Each film will then go on to air later that week on “Friday Night Movie Night,” during the 6 p.m. ET hour of “SportsCenter.”
“Each film in this series highlights an important story in our culture that I’m excited to present as part of ‘Spike Lee’s Lil Joints,’ and I hope they act as a starting point for larger discussions on their respective topics,” says Lee.
“Lil’ Joints” films will include the following:
— “2 Fists Up”
Digital release: May 31; Friday Night Movie Night: June 3
Directed by SPIKE Lee
When University of Missouri football players threatened to boycott their game with BYU last November unless president Tim Wolfe resigned, they made news far beyond the sports pages and Columbia, Mo. But that was only one chapter in a tale that began long before that-a tale that director SPIKE Lee unspools in this Lil’ Joints documentary for ESPN Films. Yes, the athletes played a significant role in forcing Wolfe’s resignation, but it was really the women organizers of the Concerned Student 1950 movement, as well as a man, Jonathan Butler, willing to starve himself, who stood tallest in the confrontation with institutional racism at Mizzou. Indeed, their courage and resolve brings hope to the message chanted at the end of the film: “We gonna be alright.”
— “Redemption Song”
Digital release: June 7; Friday Night Movie Night: June 10
Directed by Kenan K. Holley
The first historically black college to win an NCAA title should’ve been the 1971 Howard University soccer team. Coached by a man named Lincoln Phillips, a collection of men of color from all over the world beat predominantly white powerhouse Saint Louis University 3-2 in the championship game-only to have NCAA take the title away because of two minor infractions. Directed by Kenan K. Holley, this film chronicles the rise and fall and rise again of Howard soccer, all within a four-year period. As former Howard student Rock Newman says, “This wasn’t just about a soccer championship. This was black excellence.”
Digital release: June 21; Friday Night Movie Night: June 24
Directed by Randy Wilkins
“We wuz robbed” is an old boxing expression. But not until the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul did people fully understood its meaning. That’s when Roy Jones Jr. thoroughly destroyed Park Si-Hun in the light heavyweight gold medal match, landing 86 punches to Park’s 32, only to watch the judges steal the match from him. In this film directed by Randy Wilkins, Jones and others relive that travesty of justice. Eventually, Jones would become a world champion in several divisions, but as this mini-documentary-part animation and part painful memory-makes clear, Olympic boxing and Park Si-Hun have never recovered.
— $15 KICKS
Digital release: June 28; Friday Night Movie Night: July 1
Directed by Jenn Shaw
In 2006, former NBA star Stephon Marbury endorsed a revolutionary low cost sneaker called Starbury. 15 Kicks revisits the Starbury sneaker’s altruistic mission and media frenzy. The film will highlight proponents and skeptics of the brand’s humble cost margin transitioning to the brand’s tumultuous discontinuation in 2009. In a world ruled by multi-million dollar sneaker endorsements, could a rising NBA basketball star and growing discount retailer successfully sell the $15 kick?