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Boots Riley Shares Pointed Critique of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman

Boots Riley—musician with the Coup and the filmmaker behind Sorry to Bother You—has published a three-page critique of Spike Lee’s latest film BlacKkKlansman. In the essay, which contains quite a few spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie, Riley questions the intentions behind Lee’s alterations to the true story that the film was originally based on.

While Riley starts by calling Lee a “huge influence” on his filmmaking and the film itself a “masterful craftwork,” he goes on to take issue with the way that Lee presents “untrue elements that make a cop a hero against racism.”

“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,” he writes. “It’s being put while Black Lives Matter is a discussion, and this is not coincidental. There is a viewpoint behind it.”

Riley goes on to break down numerous discrepancies between the historic actions of Ron Stallworth—author of Black Klansman and protagonist of Lee’s film—and the narrative portrayed in BlacKkKlansman. “For Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make a Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly.”

Riley also takes issue with Lee’s 2015 film Chi-Raq, which he says “plays into that myth” of black-on-black violence and “how that myth is used against movements for social justice.” Citing a 2016 essay he wrote in the Guardian, Riley writes “In the context of the political debate happening around the police’s role in racist attacks, this new film is a political brother of Chi-Raq.”

“By now, many folks now know that Spike Lee was paid over $200k to help in an ad campaign that was ‘aimed at improving relations with minority communities,'” he continues. “Whether it actually is or not, BlacKkKlansman feels like an extension of that ad campaign.”

Read Riley’s full essay below and revisit our review of BlacKkKlansman here.