Black life matters (BlacKkKlansman movie review)

Ron Stallworth, an African American man (amazing John David Washington) and Flip Zimmerman, his Jewish friend (great Adam Driver) come to the meeting of Ku Klux Klan and they… don’t get crucified; on the contrary – they are more than welcome in the racist structure. Sounds like a scene from the theatre of absurd? Well. Life was always know for writing the most unbelievable stories and Spike Lee in his great, strong, subversive movie “BlacKkKlansman” is using one of them to tell the powerful, at the same time funny and devastating, story about those who find their status quo in a motto “white life matters” and about those who want to make the sentence “black life matters” true and meaningful. The director talks about anger and its different sources – first one comes from fear of otherness, the other one, which in his movie sounds the loudest, from the experience of being suppressed and deprived of humanity.

Ron is a first black detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Being bored with the job of a guy that delivers files when asked so, he decides to go for more. He starts as an undercover agent, who goes to a meeting of young black activists’ community to make sure if they are not radicalizing themselves in their empowerment movement. That’s how the protagonist meets Patrice Dumas (very good Laura Harrier), who is a leader of the group, who believes in need for a radical change and has no faith in the system.

This meeting will be important not only because of the love story that will follow it, but also, or above all, because of the tension between those two characters who have radically different ideas for making black life meaningful. When Patrice remains on the side of bottom-up initiative, Ron represents more peaceful wish for change and wants to fight racism from the inside of racist structures. The other character-based thread is concentrated on the relation between Ron and Flip and their at the same time similar and different identity issues. Investigating Ku Klux Klan for the Afro-American man is from the very beginning a personal matter, when his Jewish friend, who was raised in distance to his religion and tradition, initially doesn’t identify with the problem, but with time discovers that he also belongs to the Others.

Spike Lee is using the poetics of grotesque and absurd to do both – highlight the monstrosity of racism on the one hand and show strength of his characters that are able of repeating the discriminative discourse to make themselves sound like Ku Klux Klan members. But black humour is not only adding to the movie self-irony that, which can be treated as a strategy of resistance, and subversiveness, but also makes all tension even stronger. The director is balancing on the thin line that is separating funny things from terrible things. We laugh when Ron repeats racist schemes of hate speeches, but the laugh gets stuck in the throat when the very same words are being used by the white-power people against black community.

“BlackKklansman” is a brilliant political grotesque, which is using the mask of the past to deconstruct and unmask the fact that when the world is changing, racism remains the same: always disgusting, always powerful, and always covered by traditional, patriarchal authorities that turn hate to all of the Others into love of their own people.