A brilliant, enthralling Spike Lee joint, BlacKkKlansman is based on the incredible true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Inspired to make impactful change, Ron sets his sights on a daring mission: infiltrating the KKK.
This witty production sees Ron team up with his White colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) as they go undercover to expose the hateful terrorist group. Together, what they achieve is staggering.
Lee’s re-telling strikes a unique tone, like a punchy comedy on a serious mission–serving justice, empowerment, and truth in the face of racism and oppression.
Race and Race Relations
The film's exploration of racism in America in the 1970s and beyond is still hauntingly relevant today.
In one key scene, legendary activist Harry Belafonte tells the true story of the lynching of 17-year old Jesse Washington, intercut with scenes of the KKK mob watching the controversial propaganda film, The Birth of a Nation.
The language of protest and political charge form a huge part of the film’s texture. This montage juxtaposes Belafonte’s civil rights rally with the stark contrast of Flip’s “induction” into the Klan.
The former is heavy with the unfathomable heartbreak of the Black community’s experiences, yet empowering in their determination to stand for the truth and overcome the forces of racism in their stead. As Flip shakily accepts his “oath,” his allyship under Ron’s lead offers a glimmer of hope as the infiltration gets underway…
Identity and Politics
In one scene, Flip wonders why Ron is taking this job so personally – in his words, more like "a crusade."
Ron retorts by challenging him on why, as a Jewish man, he isn’t taking it personally. He draws a pointed comparison between him hiding his own identity for this job (as a Black man pretending to be a racist White man) and Flip ‘passing’ as White throughout his daily life, rather than claiming his Jewish identity.
“You’ve been passing as a WASP – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant cherry-pie-hot-dog White boy. It’s what some light-skinned Black folks do, they pass for White.”
Poignant and powerful as ever, this exchange serves to ultimately strengthen their resolve and partnership. After all, one can’t fight for justice without taking full ownership of the mission, from the inside out.
The Right White Man
Ron explains their undercover strategy, and the basis for Ron and Flip’s dynamic duo partnership: “Black Ron Stallworth over the phone, White Ron Stallworth face-to-face.”
Ron meets Patrice Dumas at a rally she organized as the President of the Colorado College Black Student Union.
Pass The Muster
In this pivotal scene, Flip fills in paperwork to officially become a Knight of the Ku Klux Klan.
Anxious to see how the crackdown unfolds? Alas, we’ve got no more spoilers! But we will wrap on this note:
In summary, BlacKkKlansman is an important film studying institutional racism in America. The true story behind Ron and Flip’s mission lives on poignantly through Spike Lee’s vision, inspiring us still today.
We can't wait to see the creative work you submit for BlacKkKlansman on our Focus Features 20th Anniversary Brief!