Caroline Frank, Staff Photographer
Since its release in theaters across the U.S. Aug. 10, “BlacKkKlansman,” the award-winning drama/crime film by Spike Lee, has taken America by storm. The comical, heartbreaking and suspenseful film is an iconic representation of the prevalence of racial injustice in America today. It entertains the audience while serving a purpose, which is to reveal the racial discrimination, hate speech and violence by whites while demonstrating the fight for equal rights of blacks.
Based on true events in the 1970s, “BlacKkKlansman” tells the story of Ron Stallworth, the first-ever black cop hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. Stallworth, played by John David Washington, strives to prevent attacks from the Ku Klux Klan through his undercover detective work. A white cop, Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver, collaborates with Stallworth to establish contact with the KKK and investigate from the inside by becoming a “member” of the organization.
A consistent theme throughout the movie is the way in which Stallworth speaks. As the character states early in the movie, he is “fluent in English and in jive.” In other words, he makes the claim that his voice over the phone could be interpreted as a black man’s or a white man’s, depending on how he talks. Stallworth has a phone conversation with David Duke, Grand Wizard of the KKK, pretending to be a white supremacist interested in joining the organization. The conversation illustrates the character’s ability to manipulate his voice in remarkable ways.
“I really hate those black rats,” Stallworth says.
“I’m happy to be talking to a true, white American,” Duke responds.
“God bless white America,” Stallworth says.
Lee achieves his primary goal in making the film, which is to inspire his audiences to advocate for black people in their struggle for equal power. It drives home the idea that white Anglo-Saxon Protestants have the upper hand in America and that the rest of the population is, to one extent or another, at a disadvantage. It explores issues of not only race, religion and politics, but also sexuality and gender. “BlacKkKlansman” portrays white, Christian, conservative, heterosexual males as possessing the most privileged identity in America.
What makes this film so influential is the strong emotion it expresses. It holds many jaw-dropping, laughter-inducing and tear-provoking moments. The most moving scene in the movie is when the camera angles downward at the KKK meeting from Stallworth’s perspective. The genius cinematography in this scene not only adds emotion, but also portrays Stallworth as superior to everyone else in the room. This depiction directly contrasts the ideology of white supremacists and sways the viewers to ally with people of color.
“It’s an alarm clock ringing in the midst of a historical nightmare, and also a symphony, the rare piece of political popular art that works in all three dimensions,” A.O. Scott with The New York Times writes in his review of the film.
The plot, theme, dialogue, and cinematography all enhance Lee’s message, and that is this: Racism is alive in America, and if it is not fought against, it will prevail.
“We must unite and organize to fight racism,” Kwame Ture, played by Corey Hawkins, says during his speech in the film. “All power to all the people.”
This statement brings to light the racial issues in America because it identifies the issue of whites having more power than blacks and proposes the solution that people must come together to fight for equality.