Blackkklansman, A Film Review
Directed by Spike Lee
Reviewed by Margaretta wa Gacheru (29 January 2019)
‘BlackkKlansman’ is a damning comedy-drama and critique of the white supremacy and flagrant racism that flared up in America in the 1960s during the heyday of the Black Power movement.
Veteran African American filmmaker Spike Lee has been making critically-acclaimed movies that expose, attack and undermine the racist underpinnings of American society since the 1980s. But ‘Blackkklansman’ is the first to be nominated for Best Picture by the American Academy Awards, alongside the Kenyan favorite ‘Black Panther’ (which just won Best Film at the SAG Awards).
The film is based on the remarkable true story of Ron Stallworth who’s the first Black man to ‘join’, or rather infiltrate the openly racist Ku Klux Klan. Stallworth (John David Washington) is also the first Black admitted to the Colorado Springs police force.
Additionally, he is the one who devises the dicey and daring infiltration scheme, assisted by his fellow officer, Flip Zimmer (Adam Driver) who is white. With his impeccably ‘white’ American accent, Ron makes phone contacts with Klan top dogs, including Grand Wizard David Duke, whom he convinces he is just as rabidly racist as they are. Zimmer is his stand-in whenever Stallworth’s presence is required. The difference between them is nearly detected by the Klan, not because of color but because Zimmer isn’t as passionate about the work as is Ron. But once Ron reminds him that the Klan hates Jews like Zimmer as much as they do Blacks, he gets the hang of his part.
Ron’s real complication comes when he’s told to infiltrate a Black Power rally. There he meets a beautiful Black woman leader named Patricia (Laura Harrier) who detects he doesn’t have the same revolutionary zeal as she has. Nonetheless, their feelings blossom and Ron comes to appreciate her militancy. When finally he confesses he’s not a radical but a cop, their relationship nearly goes bust. But he manages to explain that they’re both out to achieve the same end, only using different means to get to where racism gets exposed and eradicated for good.
There are hair-raising moments in the film, given the KKK is historically renowned for lynching black men and burning down Black churches. If they had discovered the ruse that Stallworth had devised and Zimmer had carried out, their fate at the hand of such a violent and racist group could have easily led to their demise.
After all, Stallworth’s real identity could have easily been discovered, given he was the only Black officer and detective on the local police force. Yet he and Zimmer managed to get onto a fast-track to the top of the KKK due to Ron’s mastery of racist rhetoric and his passionate portrayal of a white supremacist.
One reason ‘Blackkklansman’ has been so well received this year is because the theme resonates with an American public that is witnessing a revival of white supremacy against groups like Black Lives Matter, a 21st century remake of Black Power in the 1960s.