Spike Lee is a revolutionary filmmaker. Some of his films rank among my favorites: School Daze and Do The Right Thing stand out among the list.
Lee is no stranger to controversy. He wrote and directed the 1992 film Malcolm X about the late activist and Nation of Islam member.
Not only was the film controversial to White America, but to Malcolm X followers as well. One side worried that Lee would paint Malcolm X in a hero’s light, the other side voiced objection to Lee as director and Denzel Washington in the title role because they worried the film would over sensationalize the late activist and not be true to his character.
But, Spike Lee survived the controversy and created a darn good movie.
Do The Right Thing, one of Lee’s prior movies, used both comedy and drama to paint a controversial take on racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Similarly, in 1991, Lee wrote and directed Jungle Fever about interracial romances – still a controversial subject to some nearly 20 years later.
So it should come as no surprise that Spike Lee’s newest film venture, BlacKkKlansman, again tackles racism. In this instance, the film is about Ron Stallworth – an undercover police officer who manages to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan in 1979 posing as a white supremacist in phone calls with Klan members including David Duke.
The film stars John David Washington as officer Stallworth. Lee directed Washington’s father Denzel in films Malcom X, Mo Better Blues, He Got Game, and Inside Man.
The younger Washington does a good job in the role, as does co-star Adam Driver as the Jewish cop assigned to step in for Stallworth in face to face meetings with the David Duke and the Klan. Driver is best known as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
In BlacKkKlansman the white supremacists talk among themselves about how one day they will have a like-minded racist in the White House. Sadly, that day has come – and that fact is not lost on Lee.
Without ever calling Donald Trump a racist in so many words, Lee allows Trump to make clear his racist views in his own words, using news clips of Trump’s racist comments.
The film was released on August 10, 2018 – the anniversary of the Unite the Rite rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which neo-Nazis, Klan members, and other white supremacists flooded the streets with racist messages and ultimately killed peaceful protesters. Trump failed to denounce the actions of the white supremacists – in fact calling them “very fine people.”
Peace. Love. Trust.