On August 17, Boots Riley – writer/director of Sorry to Bother You – took to Twitter to deliver a lengthy critique of Spike Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman. The critique, Riley claims, is not aimed at the “masterful craftwork” of the film, but is rather a “political critique of the content of and timing of the film”.
Throughout the three-page essay, Riley addresses the apparent untruthfulness of Spike Lee’s story (allegedly based on true events) and objects to its attempts “to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression”.
Now, though, Lee has responded to Riley’s criticisms in an interview with The Times. In an uncharacteristically restrained manner, he responds that he isn’t going to directly comment on Boots Riley’s post in the interview, acknowledging that to do so could “dilute the message” of his film. But that isn’t to say that he can’t defend himself – and his decision to portray a police officer in a more positive light – more generally.
“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 colour,” he says. “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. But I’d also like to say, sir, that black people are not a monolithic group. I have had black people say, ‘How can a bourgeois person like Spike Lee do Malcolm X?’”
You can read more about Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman in a Dazed exclusive interview.