January 26, 2021

Spike Lee: "We fell asleep with Obama"

Spike Lee: "We fell asleep with Obama"

They say that what is not named does not exist. Spike Lee will never be seen calling Trump by name. For him, the president is simply "the agent orange," as if he were a movie villain. But in this case it's not that the director born in Atlanta and raised in the New York district of Brooklyn obviates the Trump issue. His euphemistic way of calling him is a mockery and a caricature. Spike Lee knows perfectly, although he does not call it by his name, that Trump exists, and in every speech he fills his mouth talking about what he and his people are doing for the "rise of fascism" in the United States. But, beware, warns the director, this is not just an American problem: "Before the '' agent orange '' was already the Brexit in England, Le Pen in France, the rise of fascism in Italy … It is a common mistake of the people and the Press to believe that this is only a matter of America, the rise of fascism is global, and I hope that people take it as such ».

With his Yankees cap, his string of chains around his neck and a suck full of slogans from Brooklyn, Spike Lee, the most influential African-American director of his generation, arrived in Madrid yesterday to present "Infiltrador at KKKlan", his latest work , which earned him the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes. Some people say that, with this film, Lee returns to the path of his best film, "Do what you should" (1989) and "The more, the better" (1990); for others it happens of braking in its attempt to link the mentality of the Ku Klux Klan with the White House nowadays. Of course, the film is as entertaining as it is militant: the good vibes of an incredible story is the appetizer with which to send a very explicit message, that the KKK is among us, here, today, in the very same Oval Office. "Propaganda? I do not know if I would call my movie that way. Is it propaganda '' The birth of a nation ''? (the famous tape of 1915, by D. W. Griffith, which showed vexations to blacks and exalted the Klan) The word propaganda is now used very lightly. If you make a song or a film and the public does not like how you think, they call it that. "

The story of "Infiltrated in the KKKlan" is based on a real case: the life of Ron Stallworth (here played by John David Washington), the first African-American detective of the Colorado police in the 70s. The agent managed to contact by phone with the leaders of the group in his state and, later, with David Duke himself, "Great Wizard" of the organization. His partner in the body, Flip Zimmermann (Adan Driver), a Jew for more, is the one who will show his face in the encounters with the Klan. In any case, Ron will be the first black to formally enter the movement, even if only by giving his name and lending his voice. Stallworth wrote his memoirs in 2014 and fell into the hands of Jordan Peele, producer and director of "Let Me Leave." "When he called me and told me that it was the story of a black man infiltrated in the KKK, I got a laugh," recalls Spike Lee. I had never heard of this agent. The humor that exists in my film comes therefore from the absurdity of its premise. How does a black infiltrate the KKK? It's laughable. " The light tone is no stranger to the cinema of Spike Lee, who believes that sensitive topics do not necessarily have to be treated with solemnity: "I love Kubrick and his '' Red telephone? We fly to Moscow, "and it deals with an issue that is apparently very serious, there is nothing more serious than the nuclear holocaust, but you laugh a lot. The important thing is to find the balance between humor and seriousness ».

«Make America Great»

And, of course, go sliding the message. In fact, from the mouth of the "Great Wizard" Duke, in the 70s we heard political slogans that have regained topicality: "Make America Great", "America First …" … It is clear that Lee points directly to Trump in a tape that was released in the United States just one year after the Charlotesville riots, in which a young woman died in a counter-demonstration against the Ku Klux Klan. "The Black Power theme that deals with the film was very present in the late 60s and early 70s, and now there is a resurgence," says Lee. I do not think that people are asleep in the United States or much less, in fact it is not a good time to be with everything that is happening. I am not speaking on behalf of the 45 million African Americans, but I do believe that there was some numbness during the eight years of the Obama administration. We live like a wonderful August and we cheated thinking that everything was done and that we would stay like that. But the '' agent orange '' has used this time to create a base against all that ».

Just as blacks («monkeys», «apes», etc., in the supremacist slang) were the scapegoat in the 70s, Spike Lee believes that now the focus is on immigrants. "If you look at history, you see that there is always a scapegoat. For the Nazis were the Jews and now they are the immigrants. Countries blame them for crimes, drugs, the threat to their religions and the dissolution of their culture. For example, the '' agent orange '' says that all Mexicans are drug addicts and criminals and that is why he wants to make a wall. I do not understand that there is not a worldwide indignation when you see separated families in the border; I do not understand why the UN is not treating a problem like this. "

What the cinema took

It refers to the recent images of separations of parents and children on the Mexican border. "When I found out, the first thing I thought was my ancestors, who came to America and their families broke up there. It refers me to the era of slavery, when they sold us and did not treat us as humans. How can there be a system that breaks families today? And they have the audacity to say that the other country pays for what you want to do ", that is, the infamous border wall.

In addition to the main message (the KKK is alive and kicking), the Spike Lee film contains a settling of scores and an amendment to the history of American cinema with images of "The Birth of a Nation" and "Gone with the Wind". I wear". The first, considered a masterpiece, "resurrected the KKK at that time (1915) and caused several homicides and lynchings of blacks." The second, the famous story of Escarlata O'Hara, does not offer a worthy image of the Afro-American community and glorifies the slave system, according to the revisionists. Faced with this, Lee proposes an aesthetic that often draws on the "blaxplotation" of the 70s in which a creator as controversial as it was inevitable as a spectator was tanned to know how the black community has been explained from the cinema. Author of "Malcom X", among others, Spike Lee has never given up giving his version of a country in which the racial divide has not been fully corrected.

Spike Lee is preceded by his reputation as a sharp character, even an edge, an unwavering sermonizer, always firm and assertive in his positions. But over time his humor has softened, to the point that yesterday at the Villamagna Hotel in Madrid surprised the press with a very close, more relaxed attitude than, for example, in the past Cannes Festival, where he presented «Infiltrated in the KKK ». In addition, he gave a very curious anecdote: "Where does Carlos Saura live?" He asked suddenly, in the middle of the interview. Needless to explain that halfway between Madrid and Segovia, in a place called Collado Mediano that could only sound like Chinese. In any case, the director followed his own: "Is there a vintage poster shop around here? I want to buy one of some Saura movie and I would like you to sign it for me. I'm a big fan of yours ». It is possible that at this time the meeting between the Aragonese filmmaker and the North American has not taken place, but at the same time it is very probable that in Bookstore 8 and 1/2, specialized in cinema, they have received the visit of Lee. We also do not know to what extent Saura ("He's eighty years old and still making movies, it's magnificent," noted the American) is familiar with his career, but it is clear that he will be pleased to know that a honors Oscar creditor has it as concerning. The statuette achieved it in 2015, coinciding with a change in the sensibility of the Hollywood Academy towards African-Americans and minorities. In recent years, the nominations for the Oscars have resulted in repeated controversies for these reasons and the Academy has opened its doors to more blacks and Hispanics in order to integrate other sensibilities.


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