Spike Lee's incendiary BlacKkKlansman was a critical and box office success, but the filmmaker says there's one thing he'd add to the ending if he could. Released this summer, BlacKkKlansman represented something of a comeback for Lee after many years without a major hit. The film went on to gross $84 million at the box office and could garner Lee his first career Best Director Oscar nomination.
Based on the autobiographical book by Ron Stallworth, BlacKkKlansman tells the story of an up-and-coming black police officer in Colorado Springs of the 70s who stumbles into the opportunity to infiltrate the local KKK chapter. With the help of a white officer, Stallworth indeed gains the trust of Klan members, even working his way into the inner circle of Grand Wizard David Duke. With its surprising mixture of powerful drama and sometimes absurd comedy, the film garnered Lee his best reviews in years, and also gained praise for its lead actors John David Washington and Adam Driver.
Of particular note for many critics was the ending of BlacKkKlansman, which wrapped up its fictionalized 70s-set story with documentary footage pulled from 2017's Charlottesville rally, where protester Heather Heyer tragically lost her life. This coda was especially resonant in light of ongoing racial tensions in America and for many critics was a perfect way to wrap up the film. However, Lee says there is one thing he would add to the already powerful ending if he could. Speaking to Screen Rant, Lee explained how he could have made his movie's ending even more relevant:
If there is one image that I would include, it would be at the border and seeing infants being snatched out of their mothers' hands. Mothers screaming. Infants screaming. Crying. Hysteria. And no one thought, "What information shall we take so we may some time reunite mother to son, or daughter? Infant to parent."
Lee went on to explain that the situation he described, involving children being taken from their parents at the border as part of the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration, reminds him of the way children and parents were torn apart during the days of slavery. "For me, that's a criminal act, to separate, snatch infants out of their mother's clutches," Lee said. Indeed, bringing the border controversy into the movie would have added yet another layer of political significance to a film that's already brimming over with outrage not only about the history of racism in America, but also the current climate. In Lee's own words, the present moment in America is "crazy Looney Tunes times."
By going back to the 1970s for a film depicting both the horror and the sometimes comedic outrageousness of racism, Lee managed to reflect something of that "crazy Looney Tunes" quality of the present moment. It remains to be seen if the movie's deft blend of the tragic and comic will allow BlacKkKlansman to break into the Oscar race as awards season begins to crank up. Unfortunately, the Academy has tended to ignore Lee over the years, giving him only two nominations total and none for Best Director or Best Picture.
BlacKkKlansman is currently available on digital, and will debut on Blu-ray, 4K, and DVD on November 6, 2018.
- BlacKkKlansman (2018) release date: Aug 10, 2018