Starring John David Washington, Laura Harrier and Adam Driver, here’s everything you need to know about Spike Lee’s latest film.
Spike Lee returns this summer with BlacKkKlansman – an incredibly pertinent tour de force, that is stylish and hilarious, yet undeniably sobering, based on the memoir of Ron Stallworth – the first African-American police officer in Colorado Springs in the late ’70s. The plot follows Ron (John David Washington) and his partner Flip Zimmerman’s (Adam Driver) undercover mission to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, which is led by the ‘National Director’ or ‘Grand Wizard’, David Duke (Topher Grace).
The film is, at its core, quintessentially Spike Lee, tackling politics and race head-on. BlacKkKlansman however, stands out from his longstanding political oeuvre, as arguably his most poignant and chilling film yet due to its timely release, piercing the veil that separates film from reality.
Laura Harrier: Who’s That Girl?
Laura Harrier: Who’s That Girl?
MISS VOGUE WHAT’S UP 20 Jun 2018
The film is impressive both on screen and behind the scenes, with gripping performances from Washington, Driver, and Jasper Pääkkönen as well as a star-studded team working behind camera including producer Jordan Peele, and writers Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz and Charlie Wachtel. Having won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival this year, the film is set to win big during awards season.
Here’s what you need to know about the must-see film:
The film was shot entirely in 35mm film
Director Spike Lee revealed at a BFI preview screening that BlacKkKlansman was filmed entirely on 35mm in order to capture the essence of the ’70s and emulate the films he watched growing up. Cinematographer Chayse Irvin caught the attention of the filmmaker with his work on Beyonce’s Lemonade with Lee immediately drawn to his raw and striking approach. Lee is also back to his old tricks, using ‘Dolly Shots’ – a technique that makes the characters appear as if they are floating and detached from the scene and their surroundings.
The film uses footage from old movies and real-life digital footage
Whilst the film was shot in 35mm film, Lee incorporates scenes from other films and real-life digital footage – fusing drama with reality – a technique we have seen before in his biopic Malcolm X that opened with real clips of Rodney King’s beating. BlacKkKlansman, opens with a scene from Gone with the Wind and closes with footage from the 2017 Charlottesville protest that serves as a harrowing reminder that his film, behind its vibrant ’70s setting of fashion and colour, is not too far removed from reality.
Lee calls on friends and family members for the film
Lee teamed up with writer, Kevin Willmott who he worked with previously on the 2015 musical crime drama Chi-Raq and Ron Stallworth, played by John David Washington (a football player turned actor) is the son of Denzel Washington who starred as Malcolm X in Lee’s 1992 biopic. John David Washington had worked with Lee before, starring as a student alongside his father in Malcolm X – a role that earned Denzel Washington an Oscar nomination. Will his son be nominated for an Oscar, too?
The soundtrack, as expected in a Spike Lee film, is terrific
A Spike Lee film set in the ’70s? The soundtrack was bound to be electric. Featuring an unreleased track from the late musical legend Prince, and an extensive list of the classics from the disco/funk era, including Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, The Temptations, Percy Sledge, The Staple Singers, The Marvelettes (you get the idea) – Lee transports us straight into the heart and soul of the ’70s.
It is a ‘contemporary period film’
Lee is adamant that BlacKkKlansman is a contemporary period film, not a period drama. Despite the nostalgia of the ’70s and the appeal of the characters’ covetable wardrobes, Lee is unapologetic in the fact that what we see on screen is a reflection of today. David Duke, wanting to ‘make America great again’ and Ron’s assertion that America would never elect somebody like David Duke as President of the United States are initially met with laughter but leave you asking yourself: “is this really happening again right now?”.
It is wickedly laugh-out-loud funny and sobering all at the same time
Although Lee never considered BlacKkKlansman as a ‘comedy’, it is undeniably hilarious. With characters such as Ku Klux Klan member ‘Ivanhoe’ (Paul Walter Hauser) who exists for comedic value, the film is brimming with jokes, satire and genuine laugh out loud moments. Of course, half the time these are only short bursts of laughter as the audience questions whether it is appropriate to laugh. Lee masterfully plays with the balancing act that holds comedy and drama together.
Spike Lee has a very important message
When asked by an audience member at the BFI screening what the main message is behind the film, Lee was quick to reveal that he never usually answers such questions. But with BlacKkKlansman, the message has never been clearer. He answered that as a filmmaker, he is a storyteller that recognises the power and influence a film has on its audience. He wanted to tell a story that would start a discussion. “I want every single person to register to vote in the November elections”, he told the audience. Sadly, “we are still fighting the same fight”.
BlacKkKlansman is released in cinemas in the UK this Friday, 24th August 2018