When Spike Lee last won an Oscar, pigs soared high in the blue sky. Wait. That hasn’t happened? That’s right. And Spike Lee has never won an Oscar either. Oh and one doesn’t win an honorary Oscar; one only accepts the Academy’s veiled attempts to wrong their rights. Well, at least with his latest film ‘BlacKkKlansman’, one history has changed. He received his first Best Director Oscar nomination. Lee’s formidable return to the screen with a true-to-life dramatization is based on Ron Stallworth’s memoirs. His career, spanning over more than three decades, has been nothing short of remarkable. His revolutionary debut, ‘She’s Gotta Have It’, registered the Lee trademark as an indomitable force of expression and representation of the African-American community in the industry. The movie launched him into the limelight, something which he has managed to sustain over the years with his exceptional and visionary craft.
Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlnasman’ is a delightfully twisted enigma. A black police officer, the first in the vicinity, reads an advertisement by the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK, and calls to have a conversation. Unintentionally, he reveals his true identity and sets up a meeting. The blunder, as it were, is converted into an infiltration operation, with a white colleague offering to play the black officer. On screen, though, the situation is completely different. Although the film greatly benefits from and gracefully carries the Lee trademark, – — dark, quick-witted, hard-hitting comedy — it offers a closely observed minutia of the American social fabric and race relations. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the nature of the organization and what really makes the premise so intriguing, the KKK is an extremist community of white supremacists, who believe that the American society needs to be “purified” by the elimination of the inferiors. The support to KKK still remains strong, frighteningly growing in numbers.
‘BlacKkKlansman’ does a lot of things right, one of which is the portrayal of this organization. The KKK is not overplayed or exaggerated to sympathize the audience with the victims of its atrocities, but knitted with an intelligent, yet brutish understanding of America’s chequered history of race persecution. Lee scores big with his colorful and relatable characters, who truly are the lifeblood of the film. But what really makes the film stand out is Lee’s unflinching and revolting resolve to tell his story in its purest form, with an endearing reflection of the present through the prism of the past.
Ron Stallworth is the first black officer on the Colorado Police Force. Ron quickly grows out of his desk job in the records room, being frequented with racial slurs by visiting officers, and yearns for something adventurous. He lodges his interest in working undercover to his superiors, who quickly call a meeting. He is given a low-key task to infiltrate a rally by the local Black Students Union, where noted civil rights activist Kwame Ture is expected to give a provoking speech. He befriends the union president, Patrice Dumas, who is then sexually harassed by a white colleague, Landers, of Stallworth’s as they escort Ture back to his hotel.
After his reassignment to the intelligence branch, Stallworth unassumingly calls Walter, the head of KKK Colorado Springs Chapter, and sets up a meeting. When he realizes his mistake, it is too late. The solution Stallworth works out involves fellow officer, Flip Zimmerman, who is Jewish, posing as Stallworth in the meeting. They join forces and decide to go ahead with the mission. He meets up with the members of the organization, who obliquely divulge an upcoming attack. In the meanwhile, Stallworth starts conversing with the Grand Wizard David Duke, a national level personality, who is worshipped by the members. They form a great rapport, with Duke expediting Stallworth’s induction in the organization, and deciding to come down personally to grace the ceremony. Flip’s cover nearly blows over on several occasions. But, with Stallworth’s support and his training, Flip is able to avoid them.