11/30/1992 at 01:00 AM EST
EVERYTHING ABOUT MALCOLM X. THE MOVIE ABOUT THE CONTROVERSIAL black leader made by the controversial Spike Lee at the controversial length of three hours and 21 minutes, has caused a stir. Even the X party and a benefit screening for the United Negro College Fund drew some sniping when it was decided to hold the gala in midtown Manhattan instead of uptown, in Harlem.
After the screening, though, the invited guests—perhaps not surprisingly—were singing a harmonious tune. Madonna
. Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Diana Ross and Ben Vereen, among others, toasted Lee's achievement. Malcolm's widow, Dr. Betty Shabazz (who has sparred with Lee about his merchandising of her late husband's name), declared the movie "phenomenal," and New York preacher-politico Rev. Al Sharpton (who has a cameo role in the film as a street orator) put it on a par with "Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments."
After the screening, filmgoers headed for a part) at Roseland, where everyone—including waiters—shimmied to the fortissimo beat of current R&B tunes. Director Lee danced for two hours straight while gracefully sidestepping PEOPLE'S questions about his film. "Look, I'm dancing," he said. "I'm dancing, and that's it."