The X Factor

More than just a movie, Spike Lee's Malcolm X is a pop-culture sensation and an inspiration to blacks

What draws the crowds is the movie inside -- but outside, on the sidewalks, far more is going on than mere ticket buying. Vendors hawk books, buttons and photographs. Ticket holders passionately debate the film's subject even before + they see it. At one New York City theater last week, the director showed up to thank moviegoers for their support and was engulfed by a throng of youths eager for his autograph or a handshake. Meanwhile, at another theater across town, a street-corner activist paced in front of the waiting line, shouting, "Don't see this movie!"

After months of controversy and...

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