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Spike Lee Responds to Boots Riley’s Criticism of ‘BlacKkKlansmen’: ‘Black People Are Not a Monolithic Group’

The "Sorry to Bother You Director" took issue with Lee's film for making a cop a hero against racism.

Spike Lee2018 Chanel Tribeca Film Festival Artists Dinner, New York, USA - 23 Apr 2018

Spike Lee

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Spike Lee has responded to criticism of his latest film, “BlacKkKlansmen,” from “Sorry to Bother You” filmmaker Boots Riley. In an interview with the UK publication The Times, Lee said he would not comment on the matter before issuing a response. Last week, Riley took to Twitter to criticize the film, writing that it was “being pushed as a true story and it is precisely its untrue elements that make a cop a hero against racism.”

Lee said he wasn’t going to comment on the charges, but then he elaborated. “Look at my films: they’ve been very critical of the police, but on the other hand I’m never going to say all police are corrupt, that all police hate people of color,” he said. “I’m not going to say that. I mean, we need police. Unfortunately, police in a lot of instances have not upheld the law; they have broken the law.”

BlacKkKlansman” stars John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, who teamed with two white police detectives in the 1970s to thwart a potential attack from the Ku Klux Klan. The film is one of the biggest hits of the summer, having picked up the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prix award earlier this year; it has already earned a solid $26 million at the box office since its August 10 release.

Riley claims the real Ron Stallworth infiltrated black radical organizations in order to take them down, even arguing that Stallworth is in fact a villain in the fight for racial justice. “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,” he wrote.

Riley’s film, “Sorry to Bother You,” which came out in July, has been widely praised for as a biting racial satire and capitalist critique. He said his comments about Lee’s film comes from a place of love and not competition, citing Lee as the reason he went to film school.

Lee seems to be taking the criticism in stride, having experienced the same thing while he was making the 1992 film “Malcolm X.” “But I’d also like to say, sir, that black people are not a monolithic group,” he said. “I have had black people say, ‘How can a bourgeois person like Spike Lee do Malcolm X?’”

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