This past couple of weeks has been all about BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s new film about a black Colorado Springs police officer in the 1970s who infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan. So far, the Grand Prix Award-winning film, starring John Davis Washington, Corey Hawkins, Laura Harrier and Topher Grace, has received rave reviews for offering a nuanced perspective of black power and black life in America.
However, like all films, it isn’t without its critiques and questionable moments. Fellow filmmaker Boots Riley, whose Sorry To Bother You was the talk of the town earlier this summer, had some lengthy critiques on the movie, particularly pertaining to the overall timing and politics of the film. Riley took issue with the “fictional” approach of the film—although BlacKkKlansman was based on a true story—saying that it was unnecessary to make police officers out to be the heroes in the fight against racism.
“After 40 years of cop shows and cop movies, did we really need one more movie where it’s supposed to be about racism but the cops are the actual heroes of the film and the most effective force against racism?” he asked.
He then laid out facts that he feels were either glossed over or omitted from the film, such as the length of time Ron Stallsworth, the black officer, infiltrated the KKK (it was three years), whether or not Stallworth and/or the police thwarted a bombing (Riley argues this didn’t happen) and others. Even more upsettingly than that, he feels, was how closely this movie was released to the Black Lives Matter movement and the black community’s ongoing demands for justice against the police.
“Look, we deal with racism not just from physical terror or attitudes of racist people, but in pay scale, housing, health care, and other material quality of life issues,” he wrote. “But to the extent that people of color actually deal with actual physical attacks and terorizing due to racism and racist doctrines—we deal with it mostly from the police on a day to day basis. And not just from White cops. From Black cops too. So for Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly.”
He posted the full stream of (spoiler-laced) thoughts shared via his Twitter timeline.
Well then. Where do you stand on Riley’s assessment. Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off below.