BlacKkKlansman is the most important movie of the summer.
I could talk about how great the acting, direction, editing, score, and style of the film were (and all of those aspects were outstanding), but that would be underselling what it was all really about. This is a timely piece about racism – violent racism, specifically – in American culture directed by Spike Lee. It depicts the story of Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in his department in the 1970s, as he infiltrates the KKK. And it is a true story.
The premise seems ridiculous, in the sense that this is too crazy to actually work. But somehow it does. It was actually a brilliant decision to have this marketed as a comedy, because I’m sure that aspect has brought and will bring more people to the theater. The thing is, though, this film tackles some heavy topics.
It brings up a specific issue – systemic racism in our culture among people in power – and offers two different ways of approaching the issue. Ron’s thinking is that a solution to this can be worked towards by coming at it from the inside, hence his desire to become a police officer. On the other side, Ron’s girlfriend Patrice strongly believes that the people in power will not want to change their beliefs and that protests and resistance is the way to go.
Towards the beginning, there is a shot of Ron looking up at a sign, but it seems like he is looking into the camera. I took this as a little wink from Lee that this film is a message to the people watching. It is not a traditional movie, in the sense that it doesn’t just show a series of events and then rolls the credits. Some of it almost seems like a documentary. It is very clearly modern day social commentary and it should be viewed as such.
Out of all of the social commentaries the film brings up, the most obvious one is that it all but directly calls President Trump a white supremacist. When David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the KKK, is said to be running for political office, a character says that America would never elect a man like him. Then later on, Duke makes a comment about bringing “greatness” back to America, which is obviously a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
But for all of the non-subtle messages about the problems in this country, Lee’s message isn’t one of hope. By the end of the film, with an extremely powerful postscript, he is saying that even with all of this apparent progress in the ‘70s, things are still the same.
Lee is begging us to do something about what we just saw. His message is that decades later, nothing has gotten any better than it was. He wants us, the people that have the power to make a change, to use that power to do something, or to at least try. And that is what makes BlacKkKlansman so important. It is intended to be a slap-in-the-face wakeup call to all of us who seem to have let this all happen and have not brought about the direly needed change.