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Spike Lee accepting best adapted screenplay, Oscars 2019
via YouTube

Spike Lee made the most political speech of the night with his Oscars win

Winning the best adapted screenplay Academy Award for BlacKkKlansman, the filmmaker asked the audience to ‘regain our humanity’

Last night at the Oscars, Spike Lee finally scooped a non-honorary Oscar, a moment 30 years in the making. Picking up the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for BlackKklansman, the filmmaker made the most overtly political speech of the night, imploring the audience to mobilise for the next US election.

“Before the world tonight, I give praise to my ancestors who built our country, along with the genocide of our native people,” Lee said on stage, accepting the award with co-writers David Rabinoitz, Kevin Willmott, and Charlie Wachtel. “When we regain our humanity it will be a powerful moment … the 2020 election is around the corner – let’s all mobilise and be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.” 

BlackKklansman is a satirical film set in the 70s that follows the true tale of a black man who infiltrated the KKK with a Jewish ally. It’s loosely based on the story of a real police operation in Colorado. The film is as bitingly funny as it is stingingly political, tackling the very real threat of white supremacy then and now. Though the film is set in the 70s, Lee uses it as a lens to explore the contemporary ramifications of slavery and racism in the US, and how it continues to pulsate in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency. BlackKklansman ends with actual footage from the Charlottesville protests, which saw people protest a ‘unite the right’ neo-Nazi rally and one woman killed by a car.

Samuel L. Jackson, who presented the award, couldn’t hide his glee and pride for Lee, whooping as he announced his name. Lee jumped into his friend and peer’s arms on stage, elated, and shouted to producers who would attempt to cut into his speech time, “do not turn that motherfucking clock on!”

Lee wore a purple suit and necklace in honour of the late Prince, as well as Love and Hate rings that character Radio Raheem wears in his film Do the Right Thing

The award is Lee’s first Oscar win, discounting his honorary Academy Award from 2017. 

“For 400 years, our ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought to Virginia and enslaved,” Lee said elsewhere in his speech. “They worked the land from ‘can’t see’ in the morning to ‘can’t see’ at night. My grandmother – who lived 100 years young, a college graduate even though her mother was a slave – my grandmother, who saved 50 years’ of Social Security checks to put me through college. She called me Spiky-poo …”

Lee’s speech was the most political-focused of the night. Elsewhere, Lady Gaga, following her win for Best Original Song, told reporters in the press room that she hopes awards ceremonies like the Oscars will eventually merge ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories, in a move towards inclusivity.