01 August 2018

Based on a true story, this stranger than fiction movie has been described as electrifying.

Well, I think that’s pretty accurate having seen it for myself!

Sitting in a stunned and silent theatre at the end of a 90 minute introduction to the four minutes of modern day violence and mayhem at the end that shows just how far we haven’t come, I certainly felt shocked.

The trailer had hinted at a slightly cheesy 70s commentary on racism with a healthy dose of inappropriate humour softening the political message. I should have known a Spike Lee movie would have more of a sting in its tail.

There was humour for sure, but the shock of what we accepted as normal behaviour in the 1970s sucked the laughter right out of me about 10 minutes in, although it did return in places as the cheese and bad jokes were strong in this movie.  For someone who considers myself pretty difficult to shock, I was confronted by the constant use of violent racial slurs dropped casually into normal conversation, but even more disturbing than that, was how completely acceptable it was in that era.

The story is about an African American rookie cop with great fashion sense, and an unshakeable faith in the difference he can make. Ron Stallworth starts life as a nobody in the records room but with determination and ambition scores a spot in an undercover operation.  He goes from zero to hero as an undercover detective and becomes an actual member of the KKK by subterfuge over the phone.  Building a relationship with the Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, (Topher Grace as David Duke plays a blinder)  posing as a white man who hates black people and Jews. Together with his white Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman who fronts as Ron for the in person meetings (come on, a black klan member?) they infiltrate the “organisation” and bring the clash between black power and white power to a head.

My favourite character was the ever suspicious and slightly crazy Felix who as the right hand man of the Colorado Springs National chapter of the KKK delights in the concepts of the klan with his chubby wife Connie who is desperate to be part of the game.

There’s a girl, Patrice, who’s the leader of the black student union rallying her people to fight oppression – the smart, funny and beautiful love interest of course. But to be honest I didn’t really notice the acting or the storyline too much, even when Zimmerman was experiencing an identity crisis about his heritage in the middle of the operation, because I was too busy trying to figure out where this movie was taking me.

I don’t feel equipped to comment on the political nuances or share an opinion on the message Lee was trying to get across here but if you’re up for a slap in the face about white supremacy, black power, Jewish oppression and a stark reminder of how much the past is still present, then this is the movie for you.

It was an affront to hear the ‘N’ word used so freely because it’s not the 70s anymore and we are more enlightened and politically correct these days, on the surface anyway. But the biggest affront to my white, middle class, comfortably numb sensibilities, was the stark reminder that the current president of the United States was literally elected on the platform of keeping America white. The same premise the KKK was founded on. And nearly 50 years later nothing has really changed.

It’s no wonder a theatre full of people were stunned into complete silence.


See BlacKkKlansman in theatres from August 10.