A guide to getting the most out of this year’s fave dramatic comedy.
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman was the talk of the town after it was known to have received a 6 minute standing O at Cannes.
It was a painful 6 days between the USA and Australian premier, but finally BlacKkKlansman has made it to Aussie cinemas, and noooooow we get what all the hype was about.
Inspired by a true story, the plot follows a black “Rookie Cop”, played by John David Washington, infiltrating the KKK and taking them down from the inside.
We hate spoilers as much as you do, so don’t worry, this article is not going to be a thorough recount of all the “holy-shit-this-is-good” moments in the film. Of which there are many.
Instead, we thought we’d give you a guide to how you can get the most out of the film.
1. A brief history of blaxploitation
Blaxsploitation is a sub-genre of film that had its rise in the 1970s, with films like Superfly and Shaft known for being one of the first instances in which black characters were the heroes rather than sidekicks.
Some defining characteristics of a blaxploitation film include protagonists taking on “The Man” (white oppressors), a heavy focus on violence, sex and drugs and soundtrack filled with whole lot of wah-wah guitars and funky bass riffs. 3
Despite it’s namesake, blaxsploitation films were not necessarily a bad thing at all. It did bring about a lot of positive change for the black power movement.
However, many of the films exploited racial stereotypes, which worked to further pit black and white against each other whilst also glorifying “criminal behaviour”.
Beyond that, it is argued that many of the major blaxploitation films were just a way for Hollywood to profit off its large sector of black audiences.
“It’s a very paradoxical idea, blaxploitation, because on one hand it exposes the racism of the American movie industry and its economy, but on the other hand it was also a space where African-Americans could insert their own stories” Writes Arimeta Diop of Vice.
These issues called for a new wave, pioneered by Spike Lee, seeing movies like BlacKkKlandsman take all the “good bits” of blaxploitation films (I’m talking kung fu elements, a funky soundtrack, dark humour and a cop story line) whilst critiquing some of the problematic parts of the genre.
2. Spike Lee’s style
Some critics have claimed that parts of BlacKkKlansman were a little on the nose. Yes, there were horrendously racists characters and Trump jokes galore, but those are the kind of controversial remarks Lee has built his success on.
Ever since his 1986 debut feature “She’s Gotta Have It”, and his later 1989 masterpiece “Do The Right Thing”, Lee has made headlines for being a pot-stirrer.
“There are few filmmakers as consistently, burningly passionate as Spike Lee” writes Helen O’Hara of Empire Magazine.
His films delve right into the thick of race relations and cultural criticism, so of course he is going to be a provocateur by nature.
My advice? Enjoy the distinctive Spike Lee artistry. It’s pretty rare to see a director’s personality shine so clearly through a movie these days.
Plus, I think the state of the world today calls for a not-so-subtle kick up the a**.
3. You are going to feel uncomfortable laughing
And that’s okay. Embrace the cringe factor, because that is exactly how you’re supposed to be feeling.
There are some shockingly evil characters in this film, making their scenes almost hilarious to watch. How can a person be that shitty?
But we cant forget that this story is based on truth. These characters existed, and still exist today in some form.
Emma Kelly from Metro writes “[BlacKkKlansman’s] true victory… is how easily it shuts up the laughter.”
Be prepared for the dark comedy to turn just plain dark at times.
4. It gets VERY real
The 1970s period piece lures you into a false sense of security.
That is until you are reminded that these issues are still going on today.
So much for escapism…
But lets face it. The world is kind of a mess right now, so holding a mirror up to it may be the hard pill that we need to swallow.
Spike Lee has a clever way of bringing the film to an happy-ish ending whilst giving the audience a much needed dose of reality.
The movie, if you hadn’t already guessed, is a must see.
BlacKkKlansman is showing in cinemas Australia wide.