BlacKkKlansman Review

Director Spike Lee’s new flick highlights racism in the present using a story from the not-so-distant past – but he still manages to provide some laughs along the way.

BlacKkKlansman is the story of Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), who becomes Colorado Springs’ first black police officer, and then more or less immediately takes on the job of infiltrating the local KKK chapter. Working his way into the most racist organisation ever proves difficult for a man of his skin colour, so he enlists the aid of fellow (white) officer Phillip “Flip” Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to act as his surrogate at Klan events.

Incredibly, it’s all a true story. Ron Stallworth was a real cop, and really was black, and really did infiltrate the KKK over the phone. Some dates and places have been slightly altered but the idea and the ridiculousness is all fairly true.

There’s some incredible acting, especially from Washington and Driver in their scenes together – the real Ron Stallworth wanted Denzel Washington to play him in the movie, but was ecstatic to have Denzel’s son portray him instead. Psychotic klansman Felix is also played with disturbing realism by Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen.

The only bit of the movie I disliked was the ending, in which the fiction ends and we are bombarded with newsreel from recent right-wing events in America. It’s depressing, and then I realised  that’s probably the point. Throughout the movie the language of the klansmen mirrors that of the current american administration: Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke refers to “making America remember its greatness”, which sounds not unlike something I’ve seen on a hat recently.

Since October 1st was also the start of UK Black History Month, I wondered if the real life parallels of the film were also a major issue in Britain. I asked a friend of mine, Ore Malaolu, what his opinion was. Ore’s Nigerian, and has lived in the US for some time before moving to Scotland:

“[UK Black History Month] is almost nonexistent” he told me. “I know about it, but it’s not as brought to the forefront as it is in the US. Black history just isn’t really talked about.”

He also spoke about how his peers aren’t overly aware of the Month as well,

“My university have pictures up [about Black History Month] but I still find myself telling people ‘did you not know that’s a thing?'”

Hopefully, with movies like BlacKkKlansman become more popular worldwide (as opposed to just seeing success in the US) awareness of black history will become more prevalent in the UK. We seem to have a spotlight on black culture, but as a society looking back just isn’t our strong suit.

By Bryce Arthur

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