BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018)

What's it about? It's the early 1970s. Determined to make a name for himself, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a new detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, sets out to infiltrate Ku Klux Klan. Just one problem: he's black. Inspired by true events, or as the film puts it; 'dis joint is based upon some fo'real, fo' real shit'.


Is it any good? Lee pulls off a great balancing act here, delivering a film which is both funny and deadly serious. It's a good tactic, drawing in the viewer with the highly entertaining, couldn't-make-it-up story, then slipping in some uncomfortable commentary and truths about racism, politics and the state of America, both then and now. Washington (son of Denzel) makes for a charismatic leading man, supported by an equally good turn from Adam Driver as his Jewish colleague who ends up doing most of the face-to-face interaction with the local klansmen, who aren't the brightest bunch in the world. But Lee is clear to point out that just because the klansmen are idiots, that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous, a point made in sobering fashion towards the end of the film. This is Lee's smartest move, building upon some satirical comments earlier in the film to remind us, if we needed reminding, that for all the fun and funk on display, this isn't just history and it's not just entertainment for entertainment's sake. Yes, it's all absurdly funny, until, sadly, we realise it's actually not funny at all. Just like Trump's America today.


Anything else I should know? Well, a quick scamper for the history books (okay, Google) reveals just how much of the film is astonishingly true, including some of the more outlandish moments in Stallworth's investigation. You can read about it here, or pick up Stallworth's book, on which the film is based. Elsewhere, you can read more about Jesse Washington, the subject of a disturbing monologue delivered in the film by Harry Belafonte. And while you're reading, stick on the film's terrific soundtrack on Spotify. That's some funky listening to dig right there.

What does the Fonz think? Dis joint is fo' real, fo' real right on.

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