Without anybody really noticing, something we hoped had been vanquished by the cultural and social enlightenments of the last century has found a new, strident voice. Through the agency of America’s conniving baby/man president and the likes of our own sub-humans, Peter Dutton and Fraser Anning, racism is again on the rise with, incredibly, white supremacists believing that they are its victims. Spike Lee’s latest joint is an uncompromising and provocative reminder that turning the other cheek when confronted by such depravity is no longer an option. Based on the amazing true story of how, in the late 1970s, a black cop from the Colorado Springs Police Department infiltrated the Ku Kux Klan, Lee’s movie, peopled by the most chilling characters and leavened by occasional dark humour, proceeds to a final act of almost unbearable tension before arriving at a climax that makes you want to jump up and cheer. Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) rings the local chapter of the KKK, pretending to be a white guy who hates ‘niggers, Jews, spicks, faggots’. Invited to attend the next meeting, he sends fellow officer, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), in his place. The cruel ironies of ‘identity’ have Stallworth acting undercover among the Afro-American followers of Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael) while Zimmerman must deny his Jewishness in order to be accepted by the Klansmen. It is from Zimmerman’s eyes that the scales fall – ‘I had never thought of myself as a Jew before,’ he confesses, until he had been exposed to such vile anti-Semitism. Lee doesn’t pull any punches in linking the knuckle-dragging bigots of the KKK with supporters of Donald Trump – there are frequent references to making America great and to ‘America first’, and in one scene a Klan wife, when planning a bombing, says excitedly, ‘This could be a new Boston tea party’. All the while, the clock is ticking for Zimmerman and his perilous subterfuge. Lee’s fantastic movie demands that we all decide whose side we are on. As the Queen of Soul sang; R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
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