Spike Lee has confirmed that footage of the murder of a Charlottesville protester has been put in his new movie BlacKkKlansman.
The film, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival last night and earned a 10-minute standing ovation, tells the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Colorado branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.
Lee finished the film after the right-wing march in Charlottesville, Virginina, last summer but decided to end it with footage showing the murder of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester who was run down by white supremacist James Fields Jr.
The director told a press conference on Tuesday that he had asked Heyer’s mother for permission to use the footage to show that white supremacy is still alive and well nearly 50 years after his movie was set.
“I knew that this had to be the coda for the film, but I had to do something first,” Lee said. “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. I was not gonna put that murder scene in the film without her blessing. Mrs. Bro said, ‘Spike, I give you permission to put that in.’
The director added: We have a guy in the White House – I’m not gonna say his f**king name – who defined that moment [post-Charlottesville] 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 motherf**king Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis motherf**kers. It was a defining moment, and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than that.”
BlacKkKlansman has earned critical praise across the board and it is being celebrated as one of Lee’s finest works.
The director has a rich history of using cinema to call out America’s inherent racism and portray the black experience with films like Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X and 4 Little Girls. Now, by teaming up with Get Out’s Jordan Peele, his work has never been more relevant.
“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, “That’s what this film is about. 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.”
BlacKkKlansman stars John David Washington – son of Denzel Washington – Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier, Corey Hawkins and Harry Belafonte.
BlacKkKlansman is released in UK cinemas on August 24