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Review: In ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ Legendary Director Spike Lee Wakes up America

A film that hits the country’s heart, mind, gut, and soul on race.

Duane Paul Murphy

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Director Spike Lee is back with his latest movie, which hit theaters almost one year after the Charlottesville Riots, and it has touched a nerve on race in America. “BlacKkKlansman” tells a true story about how Colorado Springs Police Department’s first African American police officer took down a local Ku Klux Klan group in the 1970s. It is based on the 2014 book “Black Klansman” by the officer himself, Ron Stallworth.

Born in Chicago, Ill. and raised in El Paso, Texas, Stallworth is portrayed by “Ballers” star John David Washington. Stallworth always wanted to be a police officer ever since his childhood.

In 1972, when he joined the community’s local police force, starting out in the dull records room. By the time he was promoted to the department’s hands-on intelligence division, he worked closely with detective Felip Zimmerman (played by “Girls” and “Star Wars” actor Adam Driver), to go undercover at various events.

They attend a Black Power gathering where Stokley Charmicale spoke, which was organized by Stallworth’s future girlfriend, Colorado College’s Black Student Union president Patrice Dumas, portrayed by “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and fashion model co-star Laura Harrier. When Stallworth discovered that the KKK was organized in Colorado Springs, he called up their leader and joined using his “white man sounding” voice, fooling the white supremacists.

But when he has to meet them in person in order to go undercover, Stallworth uses Zimmerman, a white Jewish man, to be himself. Throughout their investigation, they encounter David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, portrayed by Topher Grace who once starred in “That ’70s Show”.

Guest stars like civil rights icon Harry Belafonte and Lee’s unique film editing techniques transform the movie not only into a good old undercover crime dramedy, but also into a historical reflection of what has come onto us in the present and what could come to us in our future if nothing is done regarding longtime racial tensions.

From Alec Baldwin’s opening act as a bigot glorifying white Christian pride and demonizing non-white non-Christian presence, to the movie’s ending revisiting the recent death of the late Heather Hyer in Charlottesville as far-right white supremacists and far-left anti-fascists clashed on the streets, Lee does not hold in his views on the current state of the country.

Lee reflects how issues such as crime, welfare, immigration, and tax reform from the mid 20th century to today in the early 21st century are being used as code words for further disenfranchisement against the historically oppressed.

With Jordan Peele, the director of “Get Out”, as a producer, “BlacKkKlansman” is a bonafide hit that everyone should see this month and eventually online. This film could gain Lee many Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for next year’s upcoming award season.

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Duane Paul Murphy is a D.C. college student and student journalist born and raised in Southern California. Currently studying for his bachelor’s in politics and a minor in media studies, Duane Paul is interested in covering domestic as well as international political affairs that impact the lives of everyday people, whether they are young students, professionals, or faculty in higher education.

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