A day after Spike Lee's new movie, BlacKkKlansman, premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival to a 10-minute standing ovation, the filmmaker spoke Tuesday about his decision to end the 1970s period film with footage of President Donald Trump and his reaction to last year's Charlottesville protests.
"Right away, I knew that this had to be the coda for the film," Lee said.
BlacKkKlansman, set in 1979, tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer in Colorado Springs who infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white colleague.
The end of the film features footage of the August 2017 protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists demonstrated against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. A counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed when one of the neo-Nazis allegedly slammed his car into a crowd.
“That was a murder," Lee said of Heyer's death, adding he asked Heyer's mother for permission to use the footage of her death.
"I was not going to put that murder scene in the film without her blessing," he said.
"We have a guy in the White House who had a chance to say we are about love and not about hate," Lee said of Trump's response. "And that motherfucker did not denounce the Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazi motherfuckers.”
Lee said racism was not a problem exclusive to the US, and called for leaders to take a stronger stand against bigotry.
"We look to our leaders. They give us direction to make moral decisions. This does not just pertain to the United States. This right-wing bullshit is all over the world and we have to wake up and we can’t be silent.”
“I know it in my heart,” Lee said. “We’re on the right side of history with this film.”