The eponymous biopic Malcolm X was a troubled project from its inception. Warner Bros. agreed to make the film but wanted Academy-Award-nominee Norman Jewison to direct.
Protests broke out over choosing a white director to make the film. Spike Lee was one of the most powerful powerful voices in the backlash. Soon, the pressure worked and Spike Lee was selected to take over direction.
But it was not smooth sailing from there. Lee envisioned a 3+ hour epic, but the studio said it would give Lee no more money and the film needed to be under 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Lee reached out to prominent black figures including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Janet Jackson, Prince, who agreed to fund Spike Lee's version of the film.
As it stands, it is a beautiful engrossing film. Too much is made of its length. The first part, before Malcolm converted to Islam, feels loose and directionless - just as Lee portrays Malcom.
But after his conversion to Islam, the film builds with unrelenting momentum, and Lee steers the narrative in such a way that the tragic ending feels terrible and inevitable.