Dissecting ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and Its Startling Conclusion

Spike Lee uses real-life detective Ron Stallworth’s story as a cracked mirror to examine Trump’s America in 2018.

The following is part of a monthly conversation series between The Hollywood Reporter contributors Simon Abrams and Steven Boone. This month, they tackled BlacKkKlansman, director Spike Lee’s fictionalized account of African-American undercover cop Ron Stallworth’s investigation of the Ku Klux Klan. In the film, Stallworth (John David Washington) infiltrates the Klan with the help of Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Caucasian Jewish-American police officer, and Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a student activist that Stallworth meets while attending a Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture lecture. There are spoilers ahead. 

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Simon Abrams, Getting Off the BusBlacKkKlansman has been praised as one of co-writer/director Spike Lee’s best films. It received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, and has been hailed by friends and colleagues as his best in years. Our friend Odie Henderson, over at RogerEbert.com, gave the film four stars and said that it is “not only one of the year’s best films but one of Lee’s best as well.” Rembert Browne, writing for Time Magazine, echoes that sentiment by saying that BlacKkKlansman is “Lee’s most critically heralded and accessible effort in over a decade.” Search your review aggregator of choice — Twitter, for me — and you’ll soon see that some variation of this sentiments is fairly popular.

BlacKkKlansman feels like, among other things, Lee’s way of rejecting institutionally revered, but fundamentally (and apparently) racist American movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. He pointedly opens his film with footage from the latter movie, and quotes the former pic soon in two key scenes, one of which is a comically delivered but deadly serious address from Alec Baldwin as a sock puppet white supremacist named Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard. Documentary footage washes over Baldwin’s face as he speaks and erases his skin color; he is, in other words, white enough to become part of the screen. It’s a visually powerful shot across the bow, one that speaks to Lee’s skill as both a social commentator and an image-maker.

That said, I have mixed feelings about the film, as you and I discussed once our screening ended. My reservations mostly have to do with Lee and his co-writers’ fuzzy articulation of a theme that Henderson eloquently gave voice to in his review, namely how Adam Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman suggests (in one scene, through a Sam Fuller-worthy bit of declamatory dialogue) that like Ron Stallworth, he — a secular Jewish-American — must also pass among WASPy Caucasians. In that sense, my hesitations about Zimmerman have a lot to do with how I see BlacKkKlansman as the work of both Spike Lee the showman and Spike Lee the social commentator (I’d say “provocateur,” but that’s a loaded term, especially when applied to a black filmmaker). So, to start: How well does this film work as a fictional representation of history that’s a political statement, a feel-good entertainment and an effective piece of agitprop?

Michael Ealy Joins Kofi Siriboe-Led MACRO Romantic Drama ‘Really Love’

Michael Ealy has joined Kofi Siriboe in MACRO’s romantic drama, Really Love.
Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing is the woman lead alongside Siriboe. Really Love will be helmed by Angel Kristi Williams in her feature directorial debut. Felicia A. Pride co-wrote the script with Williams. MACRO is financing and producing the film, brought there by producer Mel Jones.

The film is set in a gentrifying Washington D.C. and follows a rising black painter (Siriboe) who tries to break into the competitive art world while balancing a whirlwind romance he never expected. Mack Wilds, Naturi Naughton, Jade Esthe and Uzo Aduba have co-star.  Jones, King, Kim Roth and Aaliyah Williams are producing. MACRO’s Poppy Hanks, Latisha Fortune, Sanford Grimes, Stephanie Allain, Kim Coleman and Pride are executive producers.

Production is underway in Baltimore and D.C.

Jesse Wellens Schools Stephen Curry On How to Become a YouTube Star | 5 Minutes from Home

5 MINUTES FROM HOME WITH STEPHEN CURRY  S1 • E5

Stephen Curry may be an NBA champion, but when it comes to making it as a YouTube star, he’s got a lot to learn. Luckily, his guest for this week’s episode is YouTube vet Jesse Wellens, who’s more than happy to drop some knowledge. Thank you for watching the first season of 5 Minutes from Home. We’re just getting warmed up! Subscribe to Stephen’s YouTube channel to be notified of new videos: https://goo.gl/DU6RyB

Jay-Z on ‘Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story’ and Activism

In the six-part docu-series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” the filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason recount the teenager’s life and his deadly encounter with George Zimmerman in a gated townhouse community outside Orlando. Through interviews with key players, including Mr. Martin’s family and Don West, a defense lawyer for Mr. Zimmerman, the directors zero in on what they see as a flawed criminal justice system. They also make an argument that the divisive case (in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter) galvanized both the Black Lives Matter movement and white nationalists.

The documentary makes a case for viewing Trayvon Martin’s death and the Zimmerman verdict as a turning point that galvanized progressive political activists and white supremacists alike. Did it help spark your own desire to be more publicly outspoken about politics?

I wouldn’t use that as the catalyst. So many things have been going on and the whole climate in America has changed again. I mean, obviously, I think it was the pendulum swinging back from Obama being president. I feel like it was festering and I think the Obama administration just brought those frustrations to another place where people can spread the propaganda of hate.

Also, on the flip side, we’re looking at people who, in areas like Middle America, were not really taken care of. You know? They vote for Democrats because their parents voted Democrat and America was a different place at that time. The middle class was allowed to thrive and there was steel in Indiana and the car jobs in Detroit and all these places where these factories were to provide a way for you to start somewhere in low income, get middle class and then maybe end up with the house of your dreams. This was the American dream and it was real. Then that America changed and no one addressed that.

The filmmakers and Mr. Martin’s parents hope “Rest in Power,” which debuts Monday on the Paramount Network and BET, moves Mr. Martin beyond the realm of symbolism and demonstrates the costs of ignoring these issues. “I hope people walk away knowing who Trayvon Martin really was,” Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, said.

“I want people to walk away having a clear view of what this country is about right now, and not what they thought it is,” she added.

The docu-series was first announced in early 2017 as part of a production partnership between Jay-Z and The Weinstein Company. But the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein have been scrubbed from the credits of “Rest in Power” since the publication of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times and The New Yorker last year. (The company did not have editorial input on the series, according to Paramount, which said it “owns and financed the project” in full. Ms. Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, have said that the Weinstein Company owes them money for the rights to their book, which served as source material for the documentary.)

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/29/arts/jay-z-interview-rest-in-power-the-trayvon-martin-story