Spike Lee's Latest Film "BlacKkKlansman" Tackles Racism in the US
American film director Spike Lee is known for portraying various critiques on the idea of race in society. Though his films over the last decade may not be considered both commercially and critically successful, he is renowned in the industry for his boldness. His film “BlacKkKlansman” showcases his most recent attempt to tackle complex race relations.
Upon first hearing, I expected a film called the “BlacKkKlansman” to be a barrage of complicated opinions on race, but on the contrary, Lee tells a story that has race relations woven through a very well structured and carefully executed film.
The film is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs police department. The movie follows Stallworth through his dangerous investigation to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. Though the film takes some time to find a groove, when the main investigating begins it becomes incredibly fascinating. I believe that this is Lee’s best social commentary film since “Do The Right Thing,” and, like in “Do the Right Thing,” he does a great job of giving multiple dimensions to the antagonists of the film. It would have been easy for Lee to portray the stereotypical, racist Nazi character, but instead Lee takes time to show the white supremacists outside of their robes. There is even a scene where one of the Nazis talks to his wife about their racist views in an attempt to inform the audience of a perspective they don’t usually hear or resonate with.
In this film, Lee starts a debate about whether it is possible for a minority class to change the system from the inside. Stallworth fully believes this is possible, but the leader of the local black student union in the film argues that it’s not. The answer is never explicitly stated, and the viewer is left pondering it long after they’ve left the theater.
In the end, Stallworth does show some success in his investigation by catching a few supremacists and outing a racist police officer, but the movie closes with an image of a burning cross outside Stallworth’s apartment, suggesting that the KKK is still out there. This is Lee’s attempt to show the ongoing nature of this issue. He wants to prove just how difficult it is to deal with racist populations and actively incite change.
Lee frequently draws parallels to modern-day America in his work, but the montage of footage from the Charlottesville riots and Trump in this film definitely caught me off guard. After watching a film that seems to magnify social issues, it is quite disturbing to be reminded of the current state of our society. I admire Lee’s decision to include graphic depictions of racial inequality in the real world.
“BlacKkKlansman” is a return to form for Spike Lee. Any person with an interest in film and unique approaches to directing should see it. Even if you don’t agree with the political message of the film, you will leave the movie with a different outlook on the world and those who inhabit it.