Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film, BlacKkKlansman hit theaters Friday, Aug.10. BlacKkKlansman is based on the life of the first Black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, Ron Stallworth.
Stallworth infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and even became the leader of the local chapter. The film illustrates Stallworth (played by John David Washington) speaking with David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan’s national director in the 70s.
Lee’s film addresses the ugliness of racism in America with hateful organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan but also highlights the current state of the country as it seems racial tensions are peaking. The film sparked from a conversation Lee had with Jordan Peele, who made the director aware of Stallworth and his story.
During the National Association of Black Journalists Conference which took place Aug.1-5 in Detroit, Lee & Washington shared their most profound feelings about the state of the country and the importance of the black narrative in the film industry.
Lee uses clips of the Charlottesville riots that took place last year leaving Heather Heyer dead when a vehicle crashed into the crowd of protestors against the Unite the Right at the end of the movie. “Heather Heyer gave her life. It’s all about love and hate. There’s no in between for me,” Lee said.
A journalist from Virginia asked why he added the clips from Charlottesville. For Lee, the ending wrote itself. “We had another ending, but after I saw Charlottesville, I said this has to be the end of the film,” Lee said. “David Duke, the alt-right, the motherfu**ing KKK, the mother**ing Neo-Nazis, and agent orange (President Donald Trump) wrote the ending of the movie.”
Lee references the Charlottesville riots as “homegrown, American, cherry pie, apple pie, baseball terrorism.” BlacKkKlansman isn’t too far from what Lee has done with his past films. Director of classics such as Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, and the documentary 4 Little Girls, Lee has a way of telling stories that need to be heard and seen by Black people and people of color.
A crowd goer stated that the film gave her a feeling like no other for it was a Black narrative told by Black people. So how do supporters of the film and the industry continue to keep these narratives in their hands? “This story couldn’t be told by anybody else. I wouldn’t want to get involved if it wasn’t with Spike Lee,” Washington said. “We need responsible filmmakers to continue to tell these stories.”
More than just the son of his famous father, Denzel Washington, Washington hopes to inspire people that look like him and Lee to be behind the camera as well. “I would also hope to inspire people that look like us behind the camera,” Washington said. “In the industry, representation matters even in management, running the studio and being able to control the content and filter stories to our people to be responsible enough to tell it.”
Lee said until Black people are in control, the stories of Black people being told aren’t going to be steady. “We have to be in the rooms where the decisions are made. Everybody can’t be in front of the camera,” Lee said. “You can still be in this industry of the arts and still have an impact behind the camera.”
Black people have to be the one pulling strings, “such as the puppeteer in The Godfather film series posters,” said Lee.
Washington explains that as his reason for getting in the film industry, but also wanted to give the perspective of the African-American police officer. “I enjoyed this story and to have a perspective of the African-American police officer,” Washington said. “Having this job, they get caught in between culture and blue. There are some men and women out there of color that is doing their job of protecting and serving.”
Lee let the audience know that this film is on the right side of history and that Black people are still suffering from post-slavery traumatic stress. Due to being enslaved for hundreds of years, Lee reminds everyone that the country was built on the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Blacks.
Along with criticizing President Trump and calling him an “idiot in the white house,” Lee makes it clear to the crowd that, “We Built This Motherfu**er!” As the crowd erupted in cheers, BlacKkKlansman is sure to demonstrate that right and wrong does not have a race or color.
Check out the trailer for the film below: