Does Donald Trump bring out the best in Spike Lee? The militant director’s new film BlacKkKlansman is a pointed and entertaining denunciation of the racism and the hate of the America First America.
Spike Lee, the scourge of white Hollywood, has not had a moment’s rest over the past few years. He has directed music videos, documentaries, one-man shows, and a Netflix show based on She's Gotta Have It, his black and white film about an African American artist from Brooklyn who has three lovers. The original 1986 film brought him considerable notoriety. Film lovers, however, have had to wait. Films like Chi-Raq (2015) and Miracle at St. Anna (2008) were not released here. Oldboy (2013) was an unnecessary remake of a violent Korean classic. For his better films we have to go all the way back to Inside Man (2006) and 25th Hour (2002). And for his even better, socio-critical films (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X), we have to go much further back.
In short, it was high time for another cinematic foray. With BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee is again showing himself to be a film director who is impossible to ignore and who has a clear and resounding message. The Cannes Film Festival awarded it the Grand Prix, the most important prize after the Golden Palm. The mocking, relevant, and rockhard BlacKkKlansman is the improbable but true story of Ron Stallworth. In the film version, he’s a cool African American police officer who casually infiltrates a division of the Ku Klux Klan in the racist 1970s and becomes good friends with the KKK leader David Duke over the telephone. Duke is an acquaintance of Donald Trump who was already championing America First inappropriately in the 1970s.
Lee’s film is very entertaining, but he also rubs salt into an open, festering wound. He not only indicts the racism, idiocy, and danger of the acolytes of white supremacy forty years ago. He lets fly at Hollywood classics that endorse dubious images of African Americans and shows the contemporary relevance of his subject matter with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer: with a president who refuses to take sides when far-right extremists commit deadly attacks against counter-protestors in Charlottesville. Spike Lee doesn’t pull any punches. But unfortunately, that’s absolutely necessary right now.
Release: 19/09, avant-première: 17/09, Bozar