Well, I don’t know quite what to say. I’ve been left speechless. As visceral emotions pound through my head rather than coherent thoughts, I’m trying to untangle them. To place what I am feeling after what I’ve just seen.
It’s not quite a movie. Spike Lee’s new BlacKkKlansman is more like a time capsule of our history, our us. Despite its setting during the Black Power movement of the early 1970s, Lee’s continuous discreet, and not so discreet, references to modern America are shocking and timely. From ‘America First’ being chanted, to the lead character Ron Stallworth (the brilliant John David Washington) ridiculing the notion that someone very Trump-
Pitched as a some-what comedy, with sporadic moments of it, the film draws you in firmly with that outlandish idea of a black man joining the Ku Klux Klan. And you’re stuck once you’re there. Because this isn’t some light, or even dark, humour. It’s real life, and Lee makes you deal with it. With any and every emotion you have ever felt about black power, the KKK, black lives matter, and Trump. Weaving movements together, the film ,connects – and distinguishes – black and white power. As people fighting for not just equality, but basic human rights in the face of the physical fist of oppression pitched against scared, lonely (almost exclusively) men who fear that their superiority in society is slipping.
The gender imbalance in the two groups is striking. Laura Harrier fantastically plays the strong, powerful Patrice Dumas – the president of the black student union at Colorado College. In this black movement
I left the cinema in tears. Not a graceful single tear you get at the end of a drama or particularly relentless rom. I felt traumatised by the last scene, and you might too. But it is so necessary to remind ourselves of what is happening in the world. Of the horrific acts of violence and hateful rhetoric coming from our new generation of lonely men, from the grassroots right into the White House.
Racism isn’t gone, history isn’t over. These simplistic notions are not only futile, they are misleading and dangerous. You regularly see black people in America being killed by police, Nazism is on the rise worldwide, and Donald J Trump – bigot, racist, sexist, and all-around pig – leads a country in crisis. It’s important to know when to cry, like the world has gone to shit, and Lee makes sure you won’t forget it. So Blackkklansman is so much more than a movie or cultural capsule, it is a lesson and rallying call. The KKK might be a ridiculous notion, made harmless by the jokes and gags directed their way, but their vile views are not. And it’s spreading.
Lee offers no solutions to our problems, how could he. But he gives us an opportunity to not shut our eyes, to acknowledge the issues plaguing the world. Or to just watch the world burn, in one big cross.