Last night at the Cannes Film Festival, Spike Lee unveiled his new film BlacKkKlansman, based on the unlikely true story of a black police officer who managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. The movie had a gangbusters premiere and left many attendees in tears thanks to its coda: A documentary montage of the conflict in Charlottesville, astoundingly edited, that ends with a dedication to Heather Heyer, who was run down and killed when a man drove his car into a group of people protesting white nationalism.
“It’s an ugly, ugly, ugly blemish on the United States of America,” Lee said at the press conference for the film today. “Heather should be alive now. It’s a murderous act.” Lee added the coda after the film had already wrapped, and he will release the film on the first anniversary of the Charlottesville conflict. Today at the press conference, when asked about procuring the footage, Lee launched into a passionate, five-minute monologue that often served as a rebuke of President Trump and, upon its ending, left even the 61-year-old director shaken. Here is what he said, in full.
Right away, I knew that this had to be the coda for the film, but I had to do something first. 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.’ Once I got permission, I said, ‘Fuck everybody else, that motherfucking scene is staying in the motherfucking movie.’ Cuz that was a murder.
And we have a guy in the White House — I’m not gonna say his fucking name — who defined that moment not just for Americans but the world, and that motherfucker was given the chance to say we are about love, not hate. And that motherfucker did not denounce the motherfucking Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis motherfuckers. It was a defining moment, and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than that.
The so-called American cradle of democracy, that’s bullshit. The United States of America was built on the genocide of native people and slavery. That is the fabric of the United States of America. As my Brooklyn brother Jay-Z would say, facts. That scene had to go in.
We look to our leaders. They give us direction to make moral decisions. And I like to say this is not just something that pertains to the United States of America, this bullshit has gone over the world. This right-wing bullshit is not just America, it is all over the world, and we have to wake up. We can’t be silent. It’s not a black, white, or brown [problem], it’s everybody. We all live on this planet, and this guy in the White House has the nuclear code. I go to bed thinking about it. I’ve seen the “football,” that attache case. My wife and I gave a benefit for President Obama in the second term, and I saw the attache case in the car. That is not science fiction, that shit is real. And that motherfucker has the nuclear code! They got the guy in North Korea, the other guy in Russia, what the fuck is going on?
So 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. 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.
Please excuse me for some profane words but the shit that’s going on, it makes you want to curse. Thank you.