Do you think Spike Lee gave a balanced look to the film?
Yes. My fear going into the film is that it might be only one sided with very shallow characters similar to the movie Desierto, where the white psychopath villain that shoots Mexican immigrants is really never shown why he is motivated to hunt down strangers. That film got crushed from not having say 1-2 minutes of flashbacks of say a rape or maybe a childhood event that triggered the guy. Not in this film. I think we got very fleshed out characters from the black undercover cop infiltrating the KKK on a whim of one phone call to the KKK organization and its variants within. Its a great beginning scene.
As you may know, Spike Lee usually gets independent funding for his films and many advertisers don't want to be connected to a film of this nature as well. A movie like Mo Better Blues is fine to promote, but diving deep into the nature of racism and even recent marches is all negative from an advertisers standpoint. The thing that killed me was I came in 15 minutes after the start thinking I would skip half the ads and I missed the beginning of the film. I am totally kicking myself as it was really an excellent film.
So basically, this film is running under the radar for promotion and likely only reach independent theatres close to urban areas of diverse populations that might like to see this film. That's a shame, since its an important look into racism and the connection to today's society, but the reality is an Avengers or Predator about dumb blockbuster fun will always pull more dollars as people like escapism in movies more than getting educated. Spike Lee really gives a great tension to the movie to keep the audience engaged, as well as super cringey scenes of racism needed to pull it off and historical connections to films like Birth of a Nation that helped give rebirth to racism and the KKK in the 1920s. I think I would add that the Great Depression and the sudden joblessness likely added much of the furor of racism to that era as well. Nothing like being out of a job to drive men crazy. Just look at the rise of Nazism in Germany under horrendous economic strain from the same era.
The bonus to the promotion to the film was there was a real-life police officer on duty at the film. SAY WHAT?? I have never seen any movie that had a cop at the damn theater. I guess the police wanted to really get the movie promoted. It really gave me chills as you realize the police racism kind of is a current still. Or that the police thought we would burn the place down after seeing the film.
It has this great balance between how a black man Ron Stallworth, who wants to be a police officer survives being a police officer in 1960s America. Obviously, there would have been very few in that day due to the racism within some of the ranks. I liked the flavor that brought to the movie. At the same time, the lead Ron Stallworh is infiltrating the local black student union that is trying to promote black nationalism and black pride, which presents its own "danger" to the local society. So Ron is kind of caught between which type of cop is he: working for the man, overlooking a racist cop in the ranks or the cop trying to take down the KKK. He's all of that and the character is so great because of it.
Were there any shocks to the movie?
What did you think of Spike Lee refusing to see Django Unchained because a white man made it?
On the other hand, dude.... this is Quentin Tarantino. He is another master film maker of our day, so to avoid his film because he is white is a bit superficial. Plus Django kind of reverses the myth of the black man as villain in the film without taking out the ugliness of slavery. Tarantino really captures the essence of slavery in a mythological story. So I really think Spike should go see it (at least in secret). This is one of the best films ever on slavery and describing how its corrupts all the members of society in its functioning.
In a way, Spike answers the reason why he didn't see it in this film itself as the Ron is having a conversation with this girl Patrice he is trying to date. The black exploitation films of the 1970s really didn't help the black man in the end as it gives false hope or even escapism from the realities of the day. Good points Spike.
Have you done any art related to the film?