- 21 Aug 18
Following advance screenings of BlacKkKlansman last night across the UK & Ireland, a live Q&A with director Spike Lee - recorded at London's BFI Southbank - was broadcast after the movie.
Hot Press were in attendance at one of these special showings and have compiled a list of some of the most notable moments of the interview.
Birth of a Nation/Gone with the Wind
Lee opened up about the appropriation of footage from classic films Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind for key sequences in BlacKkKlansman. The director said they were movies he was shown throughout his academic life as examples of great filmmaking. However, he always hated them for how they represented black people, particularly Birth of a Nation for reviving the Ku Klux Klan upon its release.
"In class we were never told about social-political implication of these films," said Lee. Thus, he used these films in BlacKkKlansman as a way of getting people to analyse and rethink their legacies. "I never said we should ban these films. We should talk about them though and add subtext. [Birth of a Nation] incited people to violence when it came out."
In BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee does this by utiising the cross-cutting technique first used in Birth of a Nation to juxtapose klan members cheering the D.W Griffith movie with an elderly black man (played by Harry Belafonte) describing watching his friend being lynched.
The Power of Culture
When asked if Lee ever feared his films could incite violence, Lee said yes. "What makes America a superpower is not arms. A nuclear bomb does not make a kid in China do graffiti. America is a superpower because of culture. Blues, rock, jazz, hip-hop Coca Cola, Apple, TV and cinema - these influence how people think."
How does Spike Lee deal with these fears: "Films are not to be played with lightly. You got to be careful and responsible."
The director revealed his least favourite genre of films is Westerns, critcising the way they represent Native Americans: "I don't call them reservations. I call them concentration camps. John Wayne. Fuck him."
Shooting on Film
Lee was asked how he captured the 70's atmosphere of BlacKkKlansman. The director cited shooting on film - not digital - as being key to this, telling audiences he wanted the same textured look as movies like Dog Day Afternoon, The French Connection and Serpico.
Also, while praising the BFI Southbank for screening his picture on the big screen, Lee critcised those that watch David Lean and Stanley Kubrick's work on iPhones, saying these directors would be turning in their graves.
Actor Clive Owen was in attendance at the BFI Southbank, who worked with Lee on 2006's Inside Man. The filmmaker made the actor stand up for applause - something which seemed fitting given BlacKkKlansman is Lee's best received movie since his collaboration with Owen.
BlacKkKlansman opens August 24. Read about the true story that inspired it here.