Spike Lee’s got something to say.
The 61-year-old filmmaker has been letting his art do most of the talking since he burst onto the scene with his critically acclaimed film, She’s Gotta Have It in 1986. Since then, Lee’s gone on to foster discussions about race and police brutality in Do The Right Thing, HBCUs in School Daze, gun violence in ChiRaq, and he even documented some of America’s worst moments in 4 Little Girls and When the Levees Broke.
Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman, recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France to a 10-minute standing ovation. The thought-provoking project is based on a true story in which a Black police officer teams up with his white colleague to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Because of its content, and the current rise in hate group activity in the U.S., Lee had a lot to say during the press conference about the film.
“We have a guy in the White House — I’m not gonna say his f–king name — who defined that moment not just for Americans but the world, and that motherf–ker was given the chance to say we are about love, not hate. And that motherf–ker did not denounce the motherfucking Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis motherf–kers,” Lee said in a scathing rebuke of Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia protest last year that left activist Heather Heyer dead. “It was a defining moment and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than that.”
Lee, who was shooting the film when white nationalists clashed with anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville in August 2017, used footage of Heyer’s killing in the film.
“I was given Susan Bro’s phone number. She is the mother of Heather Heyer, who got murdered when that car came crashing down the street [in Charlottesville]. I was not gonna put that murder scene in the film without her blessing,” Lee explained. “Mrs. Bro said, ‘Spike, I give you permission to put that in.’ Once I got permission, I said, ‘F–k everybody else, that motherf–king scene is staying in the motherf–king movie.’ ‘Cause that was a murder.”
During the BlacKkKlansman press conference, Lee also discussed the rise of Right-wing nationalism and called on all people to speak up.
“This Right-wing bullsh-t is not just America, it is all over the world, and we have to wake up. We can’t be silent. It’s not a Black, white, or brown [problem], it’s everybody,” he said.
“This film, to me, is a wake-up call because … stuff is happening, and it’s topsy-turvy and the fake has been trumpeted as the truth,” Lee said before apologizing for his “profane words.”
“I know my heart, I don’t care what the critics say or anybody else, but we are on the right side of history with this film.”