>> In 1989, Spike Lee created one of the most monumental films of the twentieth century: Do the Right Thing. A film that’s upbeat and lively, but not afraid to portray serious issues—especially of racial violence in America.
Lee never holds back, primarily when it comes to critiquing our current society, and his new feature BlacKkKlansman is no exception. The film made quite a splash at this years Cannes Film Festival, and since its worldwide release, this is a film that is undoubtedly weighing heavy in the minds of its viewers. BlacKkKlansman follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington)—the first black officer of the Colorado Springs Police Department—and his attempts to infiltrate and expose a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The film “is based on some fo’ real fo’ real shit”; it’s witty, gripping, and a true masterpiece of the early 21st century.
Before diving too far into this film, I’ll start with how well this film is crafted. Lee’s style is refined—it’s still true to himself and his previous work, with the stylistic elements that define Lee building slowly and culminating near the end. This film pulls you in quickly with its charm and wit, but it never lets you forget the heavy nature of the film’s context. The tension in this film grows so thick it will suffocate you, and don’t expect any relief from the film’s ending.
During the screening I attended, the audience was very receptive—there was loud laughter, people yelling, the whole shebang. This is also one of the first mainstream films to directly critique Trump’s presidency. The film opens with Alec Baldwin—a regular Trump impersonator—preaching the ideas of white supremacy. David Duke (Topher Grace), the head of the Ku Klux Klan in the 70’s, speaks of how the “organization” strives to get their ideas and beliefs into The White House. In a conversation with his supervisor, Ron Stallworth states something along the lines of how America is rational enough to never elect a president who shares their beliefs, to which his supervisor responds with “how could you be so naive?”. The film’s finale is composed of footage from the Charlottesville riots and Trump defending “the very fine people on both sides”. The finale will leave everyone with unequivocal thoughts about the current state of our nation, while also pointing the finger at those who have contributed to the racial issues that still loom within our country. While there have been films that subtly critique the current issues of our nation, BlacKkKlansman is sharp and clear—a film that will undoubtedly carry its own legacy.
When BlacKkKlansman ended the theatre was silent, you couldn’t hear a single cough or even a popcorn bag rustle. The screen went black, and an overwhelming amount of applause filled the theatre. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time an entire audience applauded a film. After leaving the theatre, I thought of the ingenious efforts to market the film as an upbeat drama. I can just imagine a white couple—in their tiny bubble of perfect living—deciding to see that “comedy about a black guy joining the KKK”. Little did Jimmy and Sally know that their bubble would soon be popped by Lee, whose finger is pointed directly at them. 9/10 <<