BlacKkKlansman

Release Date: August 10, 2018
Review Date: August 8, 2018
Reviewer: Blake Leath
Genre(s): Biopic, Documentary/Docudrama, Drama

Lauren and I sat through a great 30-minute Q&A with Spike Lee and cast (preceding the film), which was supremely helpful, if only because it contextualized what followed and made it endurable.

The movie is fantastically made: well-shot, well-written, well-acted, well-executed. I have always respected, admired, and mostly enjoyed Spike Lee Joints! (Do the Right Thing is a classic, and Giancarlo Esposito stole my heart in that film.)

BlacKkKlansman is sometimes hard to 'experience,' though, if for no other reason than because it's true, and oftentimes the truth is flat-out ugly and there's no sugarcoating it.

Lee includes his usual zingers, commonly coming in the form of political jabs and inflammatory rhetoric, but again, there's no denying the truth. (During the earlier Q&A, Lee tossed Bill Belichick and a number of former LA Lakers under the bus, but his unvarnished 'tell it like it is' is what, in part, has always made Lee such a tremendously zippy storyteller. His ability to distill complex and/or nuanced sentiments into so few words is also a dazzling, admirable gift. "Dig it?" "Sho 'nuff" his jacket patches reminded us.)

The final 10 minutes of BlacKkKlansman are especially powerful (and unsettling), including as they do the retelling of Jesse Washington's heinous public execution in 1913 (described by none other than 91-year-old Harry Belafonte), the death of Heather Heyer by white supremacist James Fields last August, and the Vanguard America rally in Charlottesville, VA that precipitated it.

Truth be told, Lee could have made the film's ending a masterful documentary unto itself, had he chosen to do what Prince began with 2015's emotionally charged tribute, Baltimore, recounting as he did the deaths of Freddie Gray, Ferguson’s Michael Brown, and Rodney King 25 years before them.

My imagination simply cannot comprehend the racial injustices perpetrated in the world, but Lee's message is as clear as it is timeless: "No justice, no peace."

There is no panacea, no silver bullet, no magic wand, no quick fix, no red pill to assuage and eradicate the hate in our world, though Lee does hint at his sense of a way forward

BlacKkKlansman's second scene features Civil Rights organizer Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael, as portrayed here by Corey Hawkins) speaking at Colorado College in 1979 and quoting 5th century Jewish sage/scholar Hillel when he asks, "If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?"

None of us can change the world, but everyone can improve his/her behavior in it, and that seems as right-minded a place to start as any.