Already knowing from the title, it’s going to be a bit sketchy from the offset, merely by the title I knew this was a film I wanted to see. Being mixed-race myself seeing films like this (dependent on content) either spur a feeling of pure disdain and anger or hatred. If not done correctly this type of film can get a lot of flak from the African American audience (as well as other non-white groups)for not interpreting correct facts, being funny, when really it should not be, or over dramatization, however with such a director as Spike Lee you come to know that there is going to be some really tough scenes charged with style, passion and attitude.
The real-life story, about an African American police officer, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), whom was able to infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, is something that was seen as too far-fetched and impossible to be true. But it was. Some things even more astounding than those featured in his film.
We are led into the film with a propaganda film in the making by the clans leader Dr Kennebrew Beauregard (Alec Baldwin) instilling dark words of black hate over the “Martin Luther Coon Movement” ruining the “Holy, White-protestant values” of the United States of America, giving the platform for how we should expect this to play out.
We follow the first days of Ron’s acceptance to Colorado’s Police Department as a rookie, warned from the offset to expect racial slurs as the least of his worries in the state as a Black American Cop and even questioned on how he would act if co-worker called him “a Nigger”, replying that he “would take it, if I had to” followed by a scene of him in the records department being referred to as “Officer Toad”. His frustrations are adequate as we watch him shadow box an invisible foe as the other officer exits the scene, riling up a feeling not too unknown in myself with past bullying from my own past. Biting your tongue, taking the higher road, “water off a duck’s back” … still painful and highly unacceptable. After we see him engaging with his Captain to seek a different department to hopefully leave the torment of paper pushing in the records department and further himself from his degrading colleagues, where initially he is given the brush off but later is invited to a go under cover as a student at a Black power talk by Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins). In the line he catches the eye of a poweful “sister”, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), initially to utilize as a source of information on his undercover investigation and secondly to follow his the call from his undercarriage. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we’ve found the love interest. Blending in as much as he can he joins in the crowd His big break has arrived and the inspiration of the whole audience, including the ones on the outside of the screen, are transfixed by the words of solidarity, equality and hope for such a people that had be regarded as dirt, nay, lower than dirt, at the possibility that their lives would become something, other than a target for torment. In order for this to come to fruition he is warned that he would have to arm himself and prepare for a race war.
Ron finds an ad for applications to the White supremacist group, The Ku Klux Klan and on a ballsy notion dials the number, out of pure intuition and drive, only to have the surprise of actually being called back by a member of the “organisation” to meet and be initiated. The “Oh Shit” moment becomes real as his colleagues remind him that :
- He gave his real name…
- He is a Black African Male and would never get within 100 feet of them without being shot on sight.
So to somehow pass in this facade his Jewish colleague Kip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) goes in his place and a tense game ensues, with us on the edge wondering if the Klansman would cotton on to the wool being pulled over their eyes.
The Klansman all hover over my trigger button of sheer resentment and irritation with racial slurs and abhorrent behavior throughout which displays the actors who portrayed them ; Topher Grace as David Duke (Former Grand Wizard of the Klan) and especially Jasper Paakkonen, to be spot on to the real thing. Unreal events ensue, having to almost pinch myself to think this must surely be purely dramatization, but its based on true events!
They really were…are…like this.
I wont give anymore away as I think was is unraveled between the start and finish of this film has to be seen to be believed and understood. Spike Lee utilized footage of the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 to beautifully stun the audience in a perfect juxtaposition to the Klan events. The footage brought the message home that even though the film is set in the 70’s this is STILL something going on in the world today. Which puts my idea of visiting ALL of the American states as a dream on indefinite hold.
But why should anyone feel like they cant go somewhere because of their religion or race? For fear of attack in whichever form?
Exactly. No reason.
A work in progress, I see.
On the other hand, this film is definitely polished and shines splendidly amongst such gifts for us to learn, grow and understand more about such a hard-hitting subject.