BlacKkKlansman (2018)

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Directed by Spike Lee
Country: USA

BlacKkKlansman”, Spike Lee’s second joint of the year and distinguished winner of the Palme D’Or, is a biographical comedy-drama whose story was considerably manipulated by the quartet of writers - Lee is included - to provide us with larger doses of dramatic weight and fun entertainment.

In the early 1970s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) was hired by the Colorado Springs Police Force, becoming the first African-American to ingress that department. Because of his stubbornness about doing something to help the oppressed black community fighting for civil rights, he is soon promoted from the records room guy to an undercover agent with a plan to infiltrate and denounce the racist brotherhood Ku Klux Klan. For that, he will have to use a lot of his improvisational skills and the help of Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Jewish officer, equally fluent in English and Jive, who borrows the identity of the investigation's mastermind.

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In the meantime, Stallworth falls for Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), the dutiful president of Colorado College Black Student Union and a strong voice for the Black Power movement. If he plays his game with the K.K.K. with a relative comfort, relying on Zimmerman to do most of the ‘dirty’ job, then he couldn’t feel so comfortable about concealing his true profession from Patrice, creating a minor investigation-relationship conflict. While he flirts with Patrice, Zimmerman meets all the white supremacists, starting with Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold), the president of the Colorado Springs branch, and ending with the leader of the organization, David Duke (Topher Grace). However, the most fanatical and dangerous militant is Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Paakkonen) and his delirious wife, Connie (Ashlie Atkinson), whose dream of killing ‘niggers’ is about to come true.

Lee vulgarizes the existence of the dreadful K.K.K. by infusing a quasi-absurdist humor in several scenes. If the final message is powerful and elucidative about current dangers, then the whole story - based on Stallworth’s 2014 memoir - is worth being told. The provocative attitude is expanded with references to D.W. Griffith’s silent yet polemic drama film “Birth of a Nation” and the final footage containing no fewer polemic declarations from Donald Trump regarding the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even though all these efforts are valid, the film could have been even more incisive with a few narrative adjustments and image filtration for sloppiness reduction. This is tough material Spike Lee is dealing with, and yet, he makes it an easy, pleasant watch.

A word of praise for the energetic performances from Washington and Driver and the awesome score by jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard.

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Pass Over (2018)

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Directed by Spike Lee
Country: USA

Spike Lee’s unconventional storytelling and theatrical dramatization go beyond the cinematic, yet mixed feelings may arise from viewers who peek at his latest work, “Pass Over”. The film intends to elucidate audiences about the sad reality experienced by the African American community in the US.
 
Having Antoinette Nwandu’s story as the source, Lee literally films a play where two young black men, Kitch (Julian Parker) and Moses (Jon Michael Hill), captivate our attention for nearly 75 minutes, showing us some abominable truths captured by a competent and nimble camerawork.

Although a bit reluctant during the first minutes, I was completely involved in the conversations and misadventures of the friends, who hang in the corner of E 64th St and King Drive in Chicago. Lee shot the film in this city at the Steppenwolf Theater.

Instinctively throwing themselves on the ground whenever a noise is heard, these men are victims of the white men's prejudice, and their top 10 Promised Land game means just their dreams flowing, misleading the emptiness of their stomachs and the general unhappiness of life.

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Their tete-a-tete is disturbed by a well-groomed white folk named Mister (Ryan Hallahan), who was heading to his mother’s house. He carries a basket replete with food and wears a white suit and red bowtie, having a constant smile on his face. Despite apparently harmless, the discomfort in the black folks becomes inevitable - is he a Mormon, a policeman, or a gangster? After an interesting conversation about the ’N’ word, he leaves pacifically, giving his place to an aggressive white cop, Ossifer (Blake DeLong), who only asks two quick questions: ‘who are you?’, ‘you going somewhere?’. The former is self-answered with ‘stupid, lazy, violent, thug’, while in regard to the latter, a ‘nowhere, sir’, uttered by one of the men, seemed to get the intolerant satisfied.

This dangerous game takes a U-turn, becoming a tragicomic manifesto that attempts to denounce the racial inequalities that keep infecting our world. Spike Lee did it artistically explicit.

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