Critics and jurors at the Cannes Film Festival all agree that filmmaker Spike Lee has scored another hit with his new film, “BlacKkKlansman,” based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.
“We were just trying to tell truth to power,” said Lee, the always socially-conscious and legendary director of such films as “She’s Gotta Have it,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X.” “This had to be a period piece that also comments on what is happening today with this guy in the White House. The whole thing with the anthem, building the wall, ‘Mexicans are rapists’ … it’s just crazy.”
The film, which opens nationwide Friday, Aug. 10, stars John David Washington, son of Denzel. Behind the scenes, it also contains the touch of D.C. native and Howard University alumna Marci Rodgers, who served as costume designer.
“Spike Lee does bring out the best in people and he’s an institution in selecting who he works with, and what I’ve noticed about him, since he’s a professor at New York University, is that how he shows how he cares and the way he gives instruction carries into his directing,” Rodgers said. “To have him mentor and push me more is the greatest gift that I could have ever gotten.”
Rodgers, who used the Moorland Spingarn archives to study the era that “BlacKkKlansman” takes place, said some days the set were intense.
“Most people may have an idea of what the movie is about, so there are moments when the energy changes and so will the wardrobe to channel it,” she said.
In May, the film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, where Lee publicly called out President Trump for his refusal to condemn White supremacists after a violence-marred rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
While “BlacKkKlansman” goes inside the notorious hate group, Lee couldn’t help but to repeatedly express concern about the world today.
“We’re living in pure, undiluted insanity,” he said. “Families are being stripped apart, kids put in cages, that’s going back to our ancestors being broken up and sold. That’s the world we live in.”
Jordan Peele and his co-producers approached Lee with the script for “BlacKkKlansman.”
“They acquired Ron Stallworth’s book and felt it needed more flavor,” Lee told Rolling Stone. “And that’s what I brought. I was grateful for the opportunity because I had never heard of Stallworth. I didn’t know his story. People say, ‘That is too unbelievable to be true.’ And that’s what makes it such a great story.”
When asked where’s the urgency to confront race with the honesty seen in films made by Black directors, Lee suggested that the desire isn’t there.
“I mean, my days of telling people what they should do are over. People are on their own paths and they’re either on the right side of the street, or the wrong side and that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “I’m going to go back to ‘Wake up.’ That’s been in almost all my films. Wake up. Be alert. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t go for the okey-doke. Don’t go for the shenanigans, subterfuge and skullduggery. Don’t go for it. Let’s make the best of the time we have on this earth, and not get into this hate.”