Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.
-David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan via Twitter
Trump has given white nationalism the green light.
– Spike Lee to Hollywood Reporter
BlacKkKlansman is the true story of Ron Stallworth, and adapted from his book Black Klansman. Stallworth (John David Washington, Ballers in an award-worthy performance) was the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who, determined to make a difference, sets out to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. He recruits a seasoned colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver The Last Jedi) into an undercover investigation. Together, they team up to take down the extremist organization aiming to garner mainstream appeal. It’s available on Digital and the new MOVIES ANYWHERE app and it’s 4K Ultra HD, Blu Ray, DVD and On Demand street date is today, November 6th.
BlacKkKlansman was produced by Sean McKitterick (Get Out, Band Aid), Jason Blum (Get Out, Whiplash), Raymond Mansfield (Get Out, Band Aid), Jordan Peele (Get Out, The Last O.G.’), Spike Lee (Malcom X, “She’s Gotta Have it”), and Shaun Redick. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital come with exclusive bonus content. I’ll touch briefly upon this at the end of my review. Rest assured, Universal Home Entertainment includes all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect with these formats.
I’m here to give you the skinny on why you MUST SEE THIS FILM. Period.
Not long after the tragedy in Charlottesville, I remember Trump in a long, combative exchange televised live for a grieving nation in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower. He insisted he did nothing wrong that Saturday when he declined to condemn Nazi and White Supremacists groups for causing the murder of peaceful protester Heather Heyer and two Police Officers in the line of duty in a hit-and-run act of Domestic Terrorism. It devolved into a wild, street corner shouting match with the press, Trump angrily asserting so-called “alt-left” activists were as equally responsible for the bloody confrontation as heavily armed, hatred-spewing Nazis, Klansmen and White Supremacists brandishing swastikas, Confederate flags, anti-Semitic banners and quite a few Trump/Pence signs. He spoke of “very fine people on both sides.” And of the demonstrators who rallied on Friday night chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans, he said,
You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest.
– Donald Trump of the Unite The Right Riot
Not only was Trump praised by David Duke, Richard Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the riot. (Yeah, white men don’t get to murder young girls and police and it be called a “Protest”, “Demonstration”, “March” or “Rally”) He seized the spotlight unchallenged by this President, while the Heyer family mourned, and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar riots in the coming weeks, this man was equally encouraged.
Trump’s Statement was fair and down to earth,
-Richard Spencer on Twitter
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, what’s all this got to do with BlacKkKlansman?
BlacKkKlansman premiered on May 14th 2018 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prix. It was released theatrically in the U.S. on August 10th, 2018, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the white supremacist Unite the White Riot (not a typo). It continues to garner praise, particularly for Washington (Yes, that’s Denzel’s baby boy) and Director Lee who’s masterful direction was hailed as a return to form.
This is a perfect storm of events to hail the return of a Spike Lee Joint. Trust and believe, BlacKkKlansman is the most unapologetic Spike Lee Joint I’ve seen in decades!
You see. When you have a President of the United States of America cape for the Klan? You empower white supremacists, they openly march declaring themselves “Proud Boys” not down in Mississippi, in the heart of Manhattan. You get white women EVERYWHERE with 911 on speed-dial reporting public blackness at every opportunity. And, tragically, you have white men shoot up a Pittsburgh Temple during Shabbat morning services and a bris that kills 11 people.
Spike Lee, like Scorsese or Spielberg, not only has his signatures (yes, Spike has a perfect dolly shot in this one) he teaches film school as he tells his tale. The film opens with the famous Gone With The Wind pan of wounded Confederate soldiers under the remains of a battle flag and the last is a well-attended screening of the “Good Ol’ Boys watching D.W.Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation which also glorifies the Klan. The crosscut is heart-wrenching as while the peckerwoods are geeking out about The Birth of a Nation, black students are taking in a lecture by an elder (magnificent Harry Belafonte) as he bears witness to a lynching of a friend in Texas when TBOAN was in theaters. The tenor and tone of both proceedings polar opposites of each other.
This dichotomy is stirring and the duality of identity is a thread throughout the proceedings.
At its heart, BlacKkKlansman is a well-crafted police procedural, and it’s fun as hell. This IS a Spike Lee Joint after all. And many of the gags are at the expense of the Klan members, their personal oddities and outright goofiness as an organization. However, just when you get comfortable, you are reminded that this is no game and there are serious stakes. The premise of the film, that a smooth-talking, morally bankrupt bigot like David Duke, has his sights set on bringing the Klan mainstream using potent issues that Republicans have made common issues to whites for decades, immigration, affirmative action, marriage equality, using the “Southern Strategy” to ride a wave of racist hate to the White House. At one point, Ron laughs at the threat of these guys he’s targeting, “America would never elect somebody like David Duke as President!” *Black folks sip tea*
I remember many white-liberal friends saying the EXACT same things about Donald Trump. And yet, here we sit. Trump has attracted a huge following of white supremacists, expressed sympathy with white southerners fighting to preserve Confederate monuments and as this film deftly reminds us, David Duke REALLY likes this President. Blame voter tampering by Russia and an antiquated Electoral College that favors former Slave states if you wish. It’s not Russia that created American Racism. It’s always been here. Trump started his most recent political aspirations with the “Birther” movement. Claiming POTUS Obama wasn’t American and an agent beholden to a hostile foreign nation. *this is really good tea* The old dog whistle politics of xenophobia and racism that white folks have employed since forever. At one time, mainstream Republicans took a hard line against the outright racists within their party, at least in public. That all changed with Trumps Presidency. As far as sexism goes? Post-Kavanaugh Hearings after the #metoo movement is all you need to know about today’s Republican Party stance on women, (the majority of the population) they stand ON them.
The other big takeaway is the dynamic tension within the protagonist. His desire to work within a system that historically targets men that look like him and even though he’s a member, he’s not accepted by all. His identity as a black man won’t allow him access other than his phone conversations with David Duke (Topher Grace is remarkable as Duke) Ron can pass for white over the phone but he hides his job from Patrice (enigmatic Laura Harrier) because he knows he’ll be seen as a Judas to her and her Black Nationalist friends. Lee does show interesting similarities between the Klan and Black Nationals distrust of “pigs”. He’s taken some heat for inventing a bombing to shine the reputation of the police of this era. The Klan wasn’t the only group targeted by infiltration by police. Historically, The Black Panthers and other Black National groups were targeted and some destroyed by Law enforcement unjustly. And Spike though never a fan of the police, said around this controversy, he’s never assumed all police were corrupt.
Adam Driver is a great actor. A bit too comfortable with the word nigger but, he’s supposed to be a Klansman. It’s interesting in the camaraderie he develops going so deep within his cover, though he’s Jewish, he has trouble not going native. Again, identity and what groups we are allowed access to comes up. And it’s easy to see how nice white folk will laugh nervously about the prolific use of the “N” word or Tarantino wannabes will memorize some of the long monologues and exchange them over lunch or at the water cooler when your black co-worker is out of earshot. But as you do, remember. The unthinkable has already happened. The sum of all fears that a Duke like figure would rise to power in America has happened. We’ve failed to stop them.
Today, the racists that were always there are empowered and bolder than ever. But, some people will remain unaffected. We allow and encourage voter suppression of the largest voting block (the non-voter) while other nations enable huge turnouts. And, because this is the only western democracy that Election Day isn’t a national holiday and voting booths are located in schools so you need childcare or drag them with you to vote. We hobble the very people most at risk by Institutional sexism and racism. Single female heads of households. This “Blue Wave” you keep hearing about is wishful thinking liberals tell themselves at night. Leonard Cohen might have scored this film, if he were still with us, and longtime Lee composer Terrance Blanchard didn’t already do a masterful job, evoking the unique spirit of Spike’s vision as usual.
“Everybody knows the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed, everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost.”
– Leonard Cohen Everybody Knows
It’s more likely to get much worse before it gets any better.
Did YOU vote today? Why not?
This film is genius on so many levels. Spike has given us the Pop-Culture candy the comfortable (white cis males) crave so much to look cool, and simultaneously the back of his hand for being so fucking complacent while everyone else fears for the future of targeted groups. “You act like you don’t have skin in the game!” Ron admonishes Flip at a crucial juncture in the film, but Ron is really speaking to the enablers of White Supremacy in the audience. How many white people owned slaves in the Antebellum South? How many German Citizens were members of the Nazi party? Small minorities. The question still remains, while atrocities were going on, what were the rest of the white folks doing? *I’ve had enough tea*
What are YOU doing? Thirty years post School Daze we still sleepwalking and let the Klan into the White House.
Wake the fuck up.
WE ALL have skin in this game. Yes even you Jimothy, and to your sorrow, you’ll find out sooner than you think. There has never before been nor will there be again, a synergy between art and the times that art reflects than BlacKkKlansman on Election Day in America 2018.
Go Vote if your polls as still open. Buy it. Watch it. Watch it again.
Ok, Now for the Bonus features on 4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY, DVD & DIGITAL
A Spike Lee Joint – Producer Jordan Peele, cast and film subject Ron Stallworth discuss the unique experience of working with Spike Lee
BlacKkKclansman Extended Trailer Featuring Prince’s “Mary Don’t You Weep”
All art- Universal
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