Spike Lee Finally Addresses Boots Riley's 'BlacKkKlansman' Critique
The BlacKkKlansman director returns fire
In the weeks since its release, Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman has been the subject of both critical praise and panning. The latter is perhaps best embodied by a three-page essay from fellow director, Boots Riley, whose own film, Sorry To Bother You, arrived at the top of the summer to similar levels of varying polarization and plaudit.
In his essay, Riley dismantles the myth of Ron Stallworth and the liberties Lee took with the Colorado Springs officer's "field work" in the film, transforming what is essentially the story of a COINTELPRO operative into "the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression," noting that Lee recently accepted money from the NYPD to consult on an ad campaign. The real-life Stallworth responded to Riley's critique rather bluntly, stating "I pray for my demented and dissolute brother" via email.
Today, Lee has finally chimed in on the discussion in an interview with The Times. While never going so far as to directly address Riley and his critique of the film's factuality (in fear that he might "dilute the message,") the acclaimed director did offer his perspective in brief by acknowledging his past works:
Look at my films: they’ve been very critical of the police, but on the other hand I’m never going to say all police are corrupt, that all police hate people of colour. I’m not going to say that. I mean, we need police. Unfortunately, police in a lot of instances have not upheld the law; they have broken the law. But I’d also like to say, sir, that black people are not a monolithic group. I have had black people say, ‘How can a bourgeois person like Spike Lee do Malcolm X?’
BlacKkKlansman is in theaters nationwide and Stallworth's namesake memoir, on which the film is very loosely based, is available to purchase via Amazon and at participating theaters.