How did Spike Lee influence black people
Spike Lee: "No screenwriter would have thought of such an enormity"
The American director explains why a debate about Donald Trump is more important to him than an Oscar.
FRAME: You recently made music clips and video games. Why did you make another film about racism with “BlacKkKlansman”?
Spike Lee: Producer Jordan Peele offered me the material. I said yes, but asked to have someone else write the script. I felt that this film had to be made immediately. As soon as it was finished, I fought to get it to the cinema right away.
Universal didn't want to release the film until the fall to position it for the Oscars. I said, "Fuck the Oscars," looked up my calendar and said, "This film has to be in American theaters on August 10 because that's the anniversary of the events in Charlottesville."
Why should that be good for the film?
The hate groups will return to Charlottesville. I can only hope that this time cops will be there to keep the opponents apart. When the auto terrorist attacked, there were no cops to be seen anywhere. The Nazis then interpreted it as follows: We have a free path, let's use it. The city is the ground zero of a new age.
Did Charlottesville influence the shoot?
Filming had already ended when the riots broke out. I realized that David Duke, the motherfucker in the White House, and the terrorist groups were all written into the script. They gave me a new ending.
What did your original ending look like?
Police officer Ron and his girlfriend Patricia lock themselves in the apartment for a lunchtime. Then an alarm goes off, they pull their pistols and see a burning cross outside. I wanted to emphasize that the terror of the Ku Klux Klan continues. But now we have an even more drastic end with the torch-carrying Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us". No scriptwriter would have thought of such an outrage. These scenes are now in the film so that people will understand: That shit is real!
«BlacKkKlansman» offers strong tobacco, can you cope better with humor?
I guess so. Many of my favorite films deal with serious issues with humor: «Dr. Strangelove ”by Stanley Kubrick,“ Network ”by Sidney Lumet and“ On the Waterfront ”and“ A Face in the Crowd ”by Elia Kazan. That’s what I’ve been aiming for since “Do The Right Thing”. But it is very difficult to strike the right balance between the seriousness of the subject and the use of humor.
In “BlacKkKlansman” you show how “The Birth of a Nation” inspired racism. Should the film be banned?
When I went to film school, a professor showed us “The Birth of a Nation” without embedding it in a socio-political context. He only talked about the technological innovation of D. W. Griffith and omitted that the film led to a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. As a result, more black people were lynched again. I'm not saying the film should be banned, but you have to tell what triggered it.
Why did you turn to 35mm?
I love celluloid. And it was important to me that «BlacKkKlansman» had a real seventies look. Even with the best outfitters and with split screens, you can't achieve that, but only when the good old Kodak film rolls through the camera. If I had shot “BlacKkKlansman digitally, it would be less truthful. The audience would have noticed that subconsciously.
John David Washington, Denzel's son, plays the black cop. How did you come up with him?
At the age of nine he already had a small appearance in my film "Malcolm X", in which his father, with whom I made four films, played the leading role. I offered the role to John David without auditioning after I saw him on Ballers that my wife produced. In it he plays a very convincing psychopath. He has acting in his genes. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
What do you want to achieve with your film?
We want to restart the discussion about the neo-Nazis. The rise of the new right is not just affecting the US, it is a global phenomenon. One of the reasons for this is the influx of refugees. Le Pen, “Agent Orange” and the Brexit architects capitalized on the fears that the refugees are triggering. History repeats itself ominously.
What do you mean?
This US isolationism has existed before. The slogan "America first" was very popular among American neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and 1930s. "Agent Orange" has taken it over.
Trump is also mobilizing opposing forces. Everyone is now talking about diversity. Do you think Hollywood will change?
The world changed for the first time with the Black Panthers. And a second time with “Black Panther”. We need more such powerful films by and with black brothers.
Series review "She's Gotta Have It"
In 1986 it was radical to make a film about a black artist from Brooklyn who has three lovers for her sheer pleasure. Now Spike Lee has reinterpreted his first feature film "She’s Gotta Have It" in a series.
The focus is again on Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), who describes herself as “sex-positive, polyamorous and bisexual”. She still has three lovers, the banker Jamie, the vain Greer, the child Mars - and now and then a wife. Today's Nola is also an artist from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, but her world has changed since white investors bought properties and houses in the neighborhood, to which African-American artists have given its identity and atmosphere for decades. Nola can only afford her apartment because her godmother owns the house.
Self-determined women like Nola are no longer so extraordinary in series today, but what has remained despite progress is sexism and racism. “She’s Gotta Have It” shows how deeply these are still anchored in society. For example, Nola tries to deal with a nocturnal attack by an assaulting man, and she defends herself daily against guys who call after her “Mamacita” or “Black Bitch”.
The series is on the one hand a declaration of love for Brooklyn, Lee's homeland, and on the other hand a medium for him to raise his voice against a world in which right-wing extremism is on the rise again. As a private person, he would not have this option. Lee conveys his message all the more clearly. Episode eight of the first season begins with the fade-in “November 8th, in the year of our lawd two thousand and sixteen”, you see excerpts from Lee's video for the song “Klown Wit Da Nuclear Code” by Stew, alternating with the crying protagonists of the Series.
The fact that Trump became a racist and misogynist proves that artists like Spike Lee, who act as mediators between cultures, still have a lot of work to do. Denise Bucher
"She's Gotta Have It" runs on Netflix.
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