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She’s Gotta Have It

Director: Spike Lee Run Time: 84 min. Format: 35mm Rating: R Release Year: 1986

Starring: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell, Bill Lee

We end our journey through Spike Lee’s New York where it all began, with his feature film debut, SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT.

Taking place primarily in Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, and Brooklyn Heights, this groundbreaking film introduces us to Nola Darling (a lovely performance from Tracy Camilla Johns) who refuses to be tied down to a single man, and instead dates three of them. We meet straight shooter Jaime Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), egocentric model Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell), and the juvenile motor mouth Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee, in one of his most well known performances) as they all vye to be Nola’s one and only.

Ahead of its time as an exploration of sexuality and polyamorous relationships, SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT was shot on a shoestring budget in only twelve days and opened up the door for the rest of Spike’s illustrious career. This film also marks his first collaborations with cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and Production Designer Wynn Thomas; and is truly a family affair, with his sister Joie making her film debut, his father Bill Lee who composing the music (and making an appearance as Nola’s father), and Spike’s brother David, taking the beautiful still photographs seen throughout the film.

SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT was not only part of the change in how Black folks were portrayed on screen, it also shifted the way Brooklyn was represented in films from then on.