Back to IndieWire

Boots Riley Criticizes Spike Lee’s Portrayal of Cops in ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ Calls the Real Ron Stallworth a ‘Villain’

It's "really disappointing, to put it very mildly,” he wrote on Twitter.

boots riley sorry to bother you

Boots Riley at the Sundance Directors Lab

© 2016 Sundance Institute / Photo by null

For the second time this week, “Sorry to Bother You” director Boots Riley has taken issue with “BlacKkKlansman.” Spike Lee’s latest is among the most well-received films of the year, even winning the Grand Prix at Cannes in May, and though Riley praises the “masterful craftwork” he nevertheless felt compelled to write what he calls a “political critique of the content and timing” of the film.

At the center of that critique is the fact that “BlacKkKlansman” is “being pushed as a true story and it is precisely its untrue elements that make a cop a hero against racism.” The film tells the story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

“It’s a made up story in which the false parts of it to try to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression,” Riley argues. “It’s being put while Black Lives Matter is a discussion, and this is not coincidental. There is a viewpoint behind it.”

“The real Ron Stallworth infiltrated a Black radical organization for 3 years (not for one event like the movie portrays) where he did what all papers from the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) that were found through the freedom of information act tell us he did- sabotage a Black radical organization whose intent had to do with the very least fighting racist oppression,” he continues.

That’s especially bothersome to Riley because, in contrast, “when White Supremacist organizations were infiltrated by the FBI and the cops, it was not to disrupt them. They weren’t disrupted. It was to use them to threaten and/or physically attack radical organizations. There was no directive to stop the rise of White Supremacist organizations.”

Riley even goes so far as to say that, given what we know of how these infiltrations actually operated, “Ron Stallworth is the villain.”

“For Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly,” Riley adds. Read his full comments — which also praise Lee as the reason he went to film school in he first place — below.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox