Director Spike Lee came on the scene with one of the greatest movies of all time.
His first feature, “Do the Right Thing,” dealt with the issue of race in an African-American neighborhood. It is a very powerful film.
Now Lee returns with an equally powerful film, “BlacKkKlansman.”
Lee begins the film with Alec Baldwin playing a so-called intellectual from the 1950s named Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard.
The film has Beauregard spouting all manner of racist psychobabble / psuedotheological rants behind the backdrop of D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.” The use of “The Birth of a Nation” will be a running theme through the film.
After the racist ramblings of Beauregard, we see Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who is applying to be the first African-American police officer in the city of Colorado Springs. It is the early ’70s, and the city is trying to diversify its police force.
Stallworth begins his work on the force by working in the records room. There, he feels like he is being wasted, but this changes when Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) comes to town.
Ture was originally known as Stokely Carmichael, the former Black Panther leader.
Stallworth’s chief (Robert John Burke) sends him in undercover to see if Ture might be inciting the local African-American population.
At the meeting, Stallworth has two things happen. First, he meets Patrice (Laura Harrier), the leader of the Black Student Union. Stallworth will develop a relationship with her through the film. Second, he gets enlightened about how important it is for him to take a stand for his people.
After his stint undercover, the chief places him in the intelligence department. One day, while looking through the local newspaper, Stallworth sees an ad for the local Klan group. It has a telephone number, and Stallworth dials it. He quickly gets connected to the Klan and is invited to come to a meeting.
There is a huge problem and we all know what it is: Stallworth needs a white officer to be him in the face-to-face meetings.
Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) gets chosen to be Stallworth in person. Added to the mix of the story is the fact that Zimmerman is Jewish.
As the film progresses, we see the real Stallworth continually using the phone to continue the rouse. Eventually, he calls David Duke (Topher Grace).
The two of them become fast friends on the phone. Duke tells Stallworth he is coming to Colorado Springs and is truly looking forward to meeting him.
What Spike Lee does so well in this film is to take a story from the ’70s and make it relevant. There are notes of now spread throughout. These notes are first subtle, but at the end they strike the viewer like a two-by-four between the eyes.
Some have said we live in a post-racial society. Lee disagrees and is unrelenting in his assessment that what was still is.
He also does not let up with racist dogma spewed by his characters, and we see how the racist rants end up bringing bloodshed.
Lee ends his film with footage from August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. We see the death of Heather Heyer. We also see President Trump standing up and declaring there were good people on both sides and there was blame on both sides.
It is clear that Lee wants us to know that the issue of race is very much alive and well.
Focusing on the side of the church, the film offers an opportunity to hear the racist theology of those who declare people of color as less than.
For those that do not know, the racist movement wrapped itself up in the Bible long ago and is still parroting the view that God hates people of color.
There is a need at this moment in time for the repudiation of this misuse of Scripture. We who make up the church need to be declaring that the Bible is being used wrongly.
There is a need of “setting the record straight,” not merely about the misuse of Scripture, but about how we are still very much a racist country.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, including racial epithets and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee. Based on the book by Ron Stallworth.
Cast: John David Washington (Ron Stallworth), Alec Baldwin (Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard), Robert John Burke (Chief Bridges), Adam Driver (Flip Zimmerman), Laura Harrier (Patrice Dumas), Topher Grace (David Duke).
The movie’s website is here.
Pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.