Spike Lee would like for you to please withhold judgment until you’ve seen the finished product.
Spike Lee has been on a roll the last few years, finally (finally!) winning an Oscar, having mid-pandemic streamer hits with Da 5 Bloods and American Utopia, and once again becoming a staple of commercials and the like. But the esteemed filmmaker and personality ran into some trouble recently when journalists revealed that the final episode of his new documentary series NYC EPICENTERS 9/11?2021½ has some, shall we say, questionable content. Namely, it features quite a lot of conspiracy theorists floating wacko theories about the September 11 attacks. The furor has been such that Spike is doing something he’s never done before: He’s going back and re-working his work.
As per The New York Times — which ran the interview that inspired the controversy — Spike dropped a note on HBO’s press screener platform. “I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of NYC EPICENTERS 9/11?2021½,” he wrote, using the capitalization-happy style he likes to use on social media. “I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgment Until You See The FINAL CUT.”
As per NYT, the final episode “prominently featured members of the conspiracy group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, who push the debunked idea that the towers of the World Trade Center were brought down by a controlled demolition, not by terrorists who flew jetliners into the Twin Towers.”
Spike also included scientists and other non-conspiracy theorists who refuted those claims. But people accused him of giving them too close to equal time, on top of offering conspiracists a prominent platform — and in an episode that was scheduled to air on the 20th anniversary of the attack.
The filmmaker himself defended the inclusion of 9/11 “truthers,” even seeming to agree with some of their positions, including the debunked line about melting steel. “My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves,” he said only two days before reversing course. “I respect the intelligence of the audience.”
You can watch “NYC EPICENTERS 9/11?2021½,” Sundays on HBO Max.