A review of the 2018 film “BacKkKlansman”

Nobody makes movies like African-American director Spike Lee who has chronicled much of the black experience in the USA. This film was actually nominated for Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture although the one of the six nominations that the work received went to Best Adapted Screenplay.

The adaptation is from the memoir by Ron Stallworth, so – incredibly – this is a true story, although some major plot features are dramatic inventions. In the early 1970s, Stallworth – convincingly played by John David Washington – was the first black officer on the Colorado Springs Police Department and, while working in the intelligence division, manages to make telephone contact with the local division of the ultra-racist Klu Klux Klan (hence the clever title of the film) because he is fluent in both the King’s English and jive.

When Stallworth is invited to meet KKK members, he has to enlist a white colleague to impersonate him. In the book, the identity of his partner remains secret but, in the film, he is ‘Flip’ Zimmerman and ably portrayed by Adam Driver. Zimmerman is Jewish which was not the case with Stallworth’s actual colleague but adds to the dramatic tension.

Real life characters with important roles are Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) and KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace).

In this powerful work, Spike Lee connects the dots of historical racism in America with clips of films “The Birth Of A Nation” (1915) and “Gone With The Wind” (1939) and newsreel from the Charlotteville rallies (2017).


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