Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.

In Review: BlacKkKlansman

Director: Spike Lee


Spike Lee, prominent political voice for the black community, brings us BlacKkKlansman, based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman

The memoir reports Ron’s time in the Colorado Springs police department during the 1970s, the first black member who, with his partner Flip Zimmerman, set out to expose the local Ku Klux Klan. The context is set the 1970s, an America where black people are seen as an assault on holy white Protestant values, jeopardising them enough to be close to ‘making a mongrel race’. 

The film shows there is nothing archaic about the belief that minorities pose a threat to the values of the dominant race and how their struggle to be heard, recognised and accepted as equal is still very real. The blunt ignorance of the Ku Klux Klan in this film is laughable in its shocking nature, but it is that very ignorance that is still rooted in our society and is deeply frightening in its relevance, notably in the current Trump climate. When you really think about it, which you will after watching this film, it’s truly terrifying understanding the consequences of ignorance. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) wants to be an undercover detective in the city of Colorado Springs. Ron is sent to watch a speech by civil rights activist and ‘Black Power’ proponent Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins). While there, Ron meets and befriends Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a member of the black student union. 

Finding an advert in the Colorado Springs Gazette to join the KKK, he and Flip (played by Adam Driver) put their undercover plan in motion. Posing over the phone as a racist, he begins his communication with the Klan, with Flip embodying him in person. Over the course of the film, we follow their contact with the Klan and are shown first hand their stupidity and danger. Topher Grace plays KKK Cheif David Duke, and embodies the blind cool hatred of the supremacist. As Ron has been exposed to the activism of people such as Kwame and Patrice, we see his conflict. He likes his friends at the police force but can't hide from their part in systemic racism.

Tonally the film is boldly comic and relies on the laughs to heighten the extremes of the subject matter. It’s colourful and playful, but Lee’s point is drilled home. This film based on complete truth, about a black man convincingly pulling off posing as a white supremacist, reminds us of the dangers of ignorance, through the lens of its stupidity. 

As one character states: ‘We want to be so much like the white people who hate us so we hate ourselves.’ And it lingers. 

Funny, sharply acted and extremely relevant. SC

Film, In ReviewSmudge CottonComment