Spike Lee on NRL, racism and new film

Director Spike Lee has backed indigenous players making a stand during next week's State of Origin.
Director Spike Lee has backed indigenous players making a stand during next week's State of Origin.

American director Spike Lee has praised indigenous rugby league players who plan to remain silent during the national anthem at next week's State of Origin.

"More power to them."

The African-American filmmaker, who recently won an Oscar for BlacKkKlansman, says sport has a role to play in the battle against racism worldwide.

"I think changes happen first in sports," he says on Saturday ahead of his appearance at the Vivid Game Changer Series in Sydney.

"Sports has, I feel, always been a vehicle to move society forward."

His comments come after Queensland star Will Chambers joined NSW rivals Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr by announcing he won't sing Advance Australia Fair because it doesn't represent indigenous Australians.

"More power to them," Lee said twice, a day after touching down in Australia for the first time.

Excited, albeit tired, Lee said he was excited to explore "picturesque" Sydney and he looked forward to coming back, in the summer.

Known for ground breaking films - such as She's Gotta Have It (1986), Do the Right Thing (1989), Malcolm X (1992) - Lee has been an outspoken figure in the film industry, using his works to make politically charged statements on race relations since he first appeared on the scene in the 1980s.

Despite his critical acclaim and cult-like status, it hasn't become any easier to make racially-focused films.

"It's still a struggle to get stuff made, especially if you're not doing Marvel comic books," he said.

"Everybody else turned down my new film except Netflix, so the struggle continues."

The 62-year-old has just wrapped up filming war drama Da 5 Bloods which revolves around four African American veterans returning to Vietnam to find their squad leader's remains.

"I'll say this. This film is David Lean-esque. Epic," he said.

Australian Associated Press