Monday, August 27, 2018

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

I’ve often wondered what an alien race might think of us.  I pointed out in a review of Dark Girls that they might not want much to do with us, given how we treat each other.  We have groups like the Ku Klux Klan that espouse the supremacy of those descended through Europe.  We tend to look down on each other.

When Ron Stallworth joined the Colorado Springs Police Department, he wanted to work undercover.  He got his chance by reporting on a rally hosted by local Black student union.  Speaking is Kwame Ture, who inspires Stallworth.  (Stallworth doesn’t agree with everything Ture has to say, but admits that he’s a powerful speaker.)

One day, while reading the newspaper, Stallworth sees an ad for the local KKK chapter.  On a whim, he calls and leaves a message.  This leads to a callback and a meeting.  It’s bad enough that Stallworth used his actual name.  Now, he needs to enlist fellow undercover officer Phillip Zimmerman.  Stallworth will be the voice on the phone while Zimmerman will play Stallworth for any face-to-face meeting.  The objective is to bring down the chapter of the Klan.  Although that doesn’t happen, the police do manage to stop a few cross burnings.

The movie is based on a 2014 book that Stallworth wrote about the investigation.  While I would imagine that the story is by and large true to the book, it looks like some liberties were taken.  (Ron Stallworth never actually altered his voice on the phone, for instance.)  It’s still interesting to see the events play out.  Apparently, Stallworth never intended the investigation to go that far.  A lot of it was making things up as they went along.

The movie plays out more as a comedy than anything dramatic or suspenseful.  (There is a sense of historical irony when characters comment on things that have actually come to pass.)  There isn’t a sense that either Stallworth or Zimmerman are in any real danger.  You know that even if they don’t win the battle, they’ll live to fight another fight.  They also won’t necessarily make an impact on the larger picture, as the KKK is still around.

As you might have seen in the trailer, the movie doesn’t shy away from using derogatory terms.   There are also a few tense moments.  This is not going to be a movie for children.  There are way too many situations that would either be inappropriate or go over their heads.  Even for adults, ther ewill be a few uncomfortable scenes.  The movie does deal with race directly.

It is interesting to see the parallels between the African-American students and the KKK.  Both want to advance their cause, although the students want equality whereas the Klan (or the Organization, if you will) wants supremacy.  Thus, Stallworth has to walk a fine line.  Those in the African-American community don’t like the police, and with good reason.  As Stallworth points out, the best way to affect change might be to do it from within.

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