Yesterday, Spike Lee debuted the trailer for his upcoming film, BLACKkKLANSMAN. It’s the farfetched-sounding but actually true story of a black detective in Colorado Springs working to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. (John David Washington stars, alongside Adam Driver.) From the looks of it, the film uses a comedic tone and a groovy soundtrack to make a very serious point about far-right fringe movements gravitating toward the mainstream. Lee anchors his point to our current moment by ending the trailer with a collection of klansmen chanting “America First.”
From that alone, it would appear safe to assume that he is not a big fan of Donald Trump. Factoring in Lee’s entire filmography, including documentaries on Hurricane Katrina and the church bombing in Birmingham, along with his outspoken nature in general, provides context for the director’s epic rant against Trump from Cannes on Tuesday.
Lee was presenting BLACKkKLANSMAN at the festival, his first time back in Palme d’Or competition since 1991. The film got a rousing response that turned into hushed awe when the end scene gave way to a documentary montage about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last summer, which ended with protester Heather Heyer’s murder. When Lee spoke at a press conference about getting the blessing of Heyer’s mother to use the footage in the film, he erupted into a long monologue mostly about President Trump.
“We have a guy in the White House—I’m not gonna say his fucking name—who defined that moment not just for Americans but the world, and that motherfucker was given the chance to say we are about love, not hate. And that motherfucker did not denounce the motherfucking Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis motherfuckers. It was a defining moment, and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than that,” Lee says at one point.
By the time he is finished, the director appeared thoroughly rattled by his own words, and the events that inspired them.
Read the full text of his speech at Vulture.