Spike Lee On The Buzz Surrounding ‘BlacKkKlansman’

Lee’s vibrant docudrama BlacKkKlansman, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, is one of the director’s stronger films and—perhaps not coincidentally—one of his most focused. The narrative sticks to a just a couple of plotlines (a police investigation, a romance), and Lee manages to unify his various thematic concerns (subterfuge and sabotage, representations of blackness and whiteness in media, the political victory of Donald Trump), something he’s rarely done since Do the Right Thing (1989).

Like that earlier film, BlacKkKlansman is organized around feelings of anger. The dialogue abounds with bigoted sentiments, both heroes and villains are defined by what they hate, and the story crescendoes with an act of violence. And then there’s Lee’s rage at America’s political situation following Trump’s election, which influences the film’s conversations on race relations and prejudice. Even though the action takes place in the early 1970s, the director makes it clear that his characters are talking about the present when these sensitive subjects come up; he also concludes the film with news footage of white supremacists marching on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and violently attacking counterdemonstrators. Yet BlacKkKlansman never feels overwhelmed by its anger—it’s exciting, astute, and even funny at times.