Spike Lee’s latest film starts with the words “Dis Joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit” and it is not joking around. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is Colorado Springs first ever African American police officer and with the help of his Jewish partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) they infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
BlacKkKlansman is a hugely powerful film and one that I really think everyone should try to see. Preferably as soon as possible given how prescient it is. In its final moments it cuts to real life footage of the events of Charlottesville in 2017 where the current President of the United States defends Neo-Nazis and the violent racism on display in the footage absolutely floored me. Spike Lee has produced some incendiary films before and he was the perfect man for this job.
Having made my final points upfront so that they are not watered down in the analysis there are other things to discuss here. How good is the story, how true a story is it and does that damage the political statement?
The plot is so fantastic that it’s hard to believe that it really happened. And whilst the story has been embellished some what to increase the drama, this really happened. The film manages to be funny, scary and dangerously worrying by turns. Stallworth’s phone conversations with the Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke (Topher Grace) are hilarious, his partners encounters with some of the more extreme members of the group are menacing and scenes where the local chapter sit down to watch The Birth of a Nation are difficult to stomach. As with all films based on a true story the film does take license with its subject. A love interest played by Laura Harrier placed in direct danger by Stallworth’s involvement didn’t really exist, nor was his partner Jewish. And crucially the plot that drives the films police investigation is also made up for dramatic effect. Ultimately though, that should not lessen the effectiveness of Lee’s goal here. And that is to draw parallels with today’s political climate. To say that the film has thinly veiled barbs at President Donald Trump would be an insult to the phrase “thinly veiled”.
A hugely important political statement and an entertaining film that makes me truly wonder how such hatred can exist.