BlacKkKlansman Review: A Past Depiction of the Present

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BlacKkKlansman Review: A Past Depiction of the Present


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Left: John David Washington (Ron Stallworth), right: Topher Grace (David Duke)

By: Bella Dahlquist

Published: December 13th, 2018

Writer and director Spike Lee returns to the big screen with his new movie, BlacKkKlansman, an enticing and raw depiction of racial divides and the rise of white supremacy in post-Civil Rights Movement America.

The story takes us on a journey with Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who becomes the first African-American police officer for the Colorado Springs Police Department in 1979.

Charismatic, wry, and with an ambitious spirit, Stallworth calls a Ku Klux Klan recruitment ad and pretends to be a white supremacist.  After multiple calls and becoming familiar with Klan members and David Duke himself, Stallworth decides that it’s time to go undercover and infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the KKK.

Of course, Stallworth cannot go as himself, so he reaches out to fellow undercover detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to portray him and dig deeper into the KKK’s possible future acts of violence.

The film does a phenomenal job accurately depicting African-Americans’ multiple ideologies about how to approach civil rights and black identity.

In the era of Black Panthers and moderates, we see the conflict between a clash of ideas of how to advocate for the rights of African-Americans in the United States.  Do we fix this with a grassroots movement or infiltrate from within the establishment?

Stallworth finds himself at odds with Black Student Union leader of Colorado College, Patrice (Laura Harrier), about how to deal with police brutality and racism within the police department.

He finds himself caught between two worlds.  So, is he black or is he a cop? When it comes down to it, Ron Stallworth is both.  An African-American police officer.

He might not identify as a Black Panther, but he has proven that a person can be both black and a cop and still fight for civil rights.

But the main idea of BlacKkKlansman is that it doesn’t just illustrate the outright racism in the aftermath of Jim Crow laws or the ominous presence of the white supremacy in the late ‘70s; it’s an eerily frightening mirror image of our society today.

Spike Lee’s intention with this groundbreaking film was to shine a light on the issue of rightist extremism and the revival of white supremacy in America.

It’s to show that Nazism and the KKK are not things of the past that people just learn about from history textbooks—it’s to show that they are alive and well.

The cinematography and throwbacks to the 1970s are aesthetically pleasing, the light and dry humor is well crafted by Washington, and the actors and actresses perform in a convincingly authentic way.

BlacKkKlansman is a perfectly scripted way of educating us about race and prejudice of the past—and the present.

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