might be Spike Lee’s biggest hit in years, but Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley isn’t having it. Riley shared his critique of the director’s latest film in an essay posted on Twitter over the weekend.
Riley writes that this isn’t “an aesthetic critique of the masterful craftwork of this film,” so much “as it is a political critique of the content and timing of the film,” based on the memoir of Ron Stallworth, an undercover Black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.
He questions some liberties taken with this story in BlacKkKlansman, calling it “a made up story in which the false parts of it try to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racial oppression.”
Ron Stallworth’s infiltration of a Black radical organization for three years is reduced to a single event in the film. Riley alleges that Stallworth worked alongside an FBI counterintelligence program (COINTEL) to sabotage “Black radical organizations,” and says that the film overstates police efforts to stop the rise of white supremacist groups. “Without the made up stuff and with what we know of the actual history of police infiltration into radical groups, and how they infiltrated and directed White Supremacist organizations to attack those groups, Ron Stallworth is the villain,” Riley writes.
Riley also references his critique of Lee’s last film, 2015’s Chi-Raq, published two years ago in The Guardian. In the essay, Riley critiqued Lee for playing into “the myth of the rise of Black-on-Black violence” during the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing conversations about police violence against Black citizens.
Riley closes the essay with a reference to recent reports that Lee accepted over $200K as a consultant on an NYPD ad campaign “aimed at improving relations with minority communities,” calling BlacKkKlansman “an extension” of that campaign. Lee has yet to respond to Riley’s comments, but considering how outspoken Lee has been against his critics in the past, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear his side of the story soon enough.
Read Riley’s full essay below.