Spike Lee’s latest film “BlacKkKlansman” took this year’s Cannes Film Festival by storm, earning a standing ovation after its screening and taking home the coveted Grand Prix award.
The provocative film is set in the early 1970s and follows the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black detective who teams up with a Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to launch an undercover investigation into the Ku Klux Klan, with Topher Grace portraying KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay (“A Wrinkle in Time”) served on the Cannes jury; she described the film as “the first film by an auteur of the Trump era… a filmmaker directing their camera right on the crosshairs of this moment in a way that’s very specific.”
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Speaking with Vanity Fair, Lee, 61, doesn’t feel the need to categorize “BlacKkKlansman” as a comedy — or, in fact, any particular genre.
“I never saw it as a funny film,” says Lee, pointing to such directors as Sidney Lumet (“Network”) and Billy Wilder (“Stalag 17”) who used liberal doses of comedy in movies containing serious moral messages. “It is possible,” adds Lee. “It’s been done before. They have very serious subject matter with humour. I’m not using the word ‘comedy’.”
Asked if he’d prefer that the movie make money or have a social impact, Lee responds, “I am a storyteller… I’m not like most filmmakers, and the films I make aren’t like most films. Whether people think that’s good or bad, that’s just the way it is!”
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When asked about the box-office prospects of “BlacKkKlansman” when it opens in August, Lee says, “I’m not gonna jinx anything. I’m not messing with the cinema gods. I’m hoping for the best. And that’s my answer.
“Sometimes films don’t click, audiences don’t get it right away. People did not get ‘Bamboozled’. They didn’t get it. They get it now!”
You can read more with Spike Lee in the September 2018 issue of Vanity Fair; “BlacKkKlansman” opens Friday, Aug. 10.