From the eponymous director of the African American diaspora comes a new Spike Lee joint taking theaters by blockbusting storm.
“BlackKklansman” was released August 10 to coincide with the first anniversary of the Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacist demonstration and tragic fatality of Heather Heyer at the hands of a white Klansman.
The film draws from the true story of a retired African America Colorado Springs police detective who infiltrates David Duke’s Knights of the Klu Klux Klan in the late 1970’s. The film is based upon the 2014 book “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth.
Stallworth was the first African American in the Colorado Springs police department.
Stallworth stumbled upon a classified ad enlisting recruits to the KKK:
“For more information contact P.O. Box 4771, Security, Colorado.” He replied to the solicitation by proclaiming his utter disdain for “Blacks (N word inserted), spics, Chinks, Jews, Japs and anybody who wasn’t pure Aryan white like I was.” Stallworth explains he endeavored to be especially convincing by assuring them that he wanted to do “something to stop the abuse of the white race” Sound familiar?
Two weeks later the phone rang and the rest is the movie.
Spike Lee’s timing is impeccable. Race relations in American have been wide-awaken by national and global reactionary neo-conservatism amid a climate of extreme intolerance and rampant discriminatory rhetoric.
“BlacKkKlansman” comes at you like a runaway train. A cinematic tour de force sure to sweep the award season, with plaintive cries of fie fie fie if not. Brought to the big screen by the stellar production team of the groundbreaking Academy Award-winning “Get Out”, including the genius of Jordan Peele rendering it at a staggeringly low budget of $15 million.
Starring relative newcomer John David Washington as Ron Stallworth with a riveting performance by veteran villainous supporting actor Adam Driver as cohort Flip Zimmerman and “That Seventies Show” star Topher Grace in a convincing portrayal as David Duke. The ubiquitous Alec Baldwin makes an appearance and it is especially satisfying to see Harry Belafonte return to the silver screen. Terence Blanchard rounds out the creative genius dream team with his score while Charlie Watchel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee craft a profoundly thought-provoking story, exalting gripping, provocative dialogue that grabs the ethical soul by the throat.
Seen in a special screening on Martha’s Vineyard, where Spike Lee summers, for the MV Film Festival one theater goer who ran out of the theater in despair explained, “It was agonizing to watch! I couldn’t sit there in silence. I have a son adopted from Somalia. How do I raise my son blind to a legacy of American racism?”
The white, thirty-something, affluent, single gay father of the next generation of African Americans took comfort in my assurance that Spike Lee would relish his revolt and wholeheartedly embrace audible talk-back at the screen.
Lee’s visionary joints are veritable Sunday sermons on the screen, forewarning of Black history repeating itself. The sins of the father and forefathers revisited- be it Black, white, yellow, brown or red all over.
If you see one film this summer make it this one.
“BlacKkKlnasman” is rated R for strong language and intensely mature themes, racial epithets, graphic violence and some sexual material.
The film is screening at the AMC Hoffman 22 Theaters in Alexandria and at theaters around the DMV.