Spike Lee’s (pictured) new film BlacKkKlansman opened in theatres on Friday hours ahead of a white supremacist rally in front of the White House to mark a year after their deadly march in Charlottesville.
Charlottesville incident figures prominently at the end of the film as Lee draws a parallel between Ku Klux Klan (KKK) marches of the later 1970s and the violent rally in the city in Virginia last year.
As KKK members chant ‘America First’, President Donald Trump’s favourite slogan, in the final shot, the original video footage of KKK’s former grand wizard, David Duke, praising the leader’s plans for the US is shown. Duke then fades out and Trump fades in
Lee’s message is simple and clear. BlacKkKlansman, besides being a period film on a dangerous cult, exposes racism in Trump’s America. It shows not much has changed in four decades and white supremacists have only become stronger and bolder.
Lee’s film is based on a true story of Ron Stallworth who joined the Colorado Springs police force in 1978 at age 21 as its first black member. While trying to hunt a big fish, he started chasing a leviathan after responding to KKK’s ‘want’ newspaper ad.
Stallworth infiltrated KKK and started talking to Klan leaders on phone while his white colleague Flip Zimmerman began directly meeting KKK leaders including Duke.
The two prevented multiple Cross burnings and tried to expose some of the Klan members who held ‘respectable’ positions in their community.
When his boss ordered him to destroy files from an undercover investigation, Stallworth refused. The files and his own experience as an undercover agent were the basis for his 2014 memoir, Black Klansman.
In the film, Lee focuses less on events and more on shedding light into the hearts of darkness of the Klan members who utter the N-word many a time throughout the film.
Lee’s intention is clear. He wants viewers to ponder along with him why people sink to such levels of depravity of mind. Lee has no solutions to offer and the success of his film lies in its power to make viewers think.
The protagonist in Lee’s film Ron (Stallworth) says America would never elect somebody like Duke as the president. The dialogue may make viewers chuckle but soon they become conscious of the seriousness underlying it. It raises the disturbing question — is there a Duke at the White House?