BlackTree TV’s Jaleesa Lashay sat down to discuss his upcoming film, BlacKkKlansman, with world-renowned film director Spike Lee, who opened up about his personal experience with watching the cinematically innovative but social problematic 1915 film, Birth of a Nation.
“This is personal for me,” Lee said. “I’m a graduate of NYU film school. The first year, my professor screened the film Birth of a Nation, and they taught us all of the cinematic innovations D.W. Griffith had come up with, but they left out everything that had to do with the social impact of the film. That this film re-energized the Klan. The Klan was dormant, it was dead, and it brought about a rebirth. Therefore, because of the rebirth of the Klan, it led to Black people being lynched, strung up, castrated and murdered, but that was never discussed!”
He added, “I have no problem with Birth of a Nation being screened, but let’s put it in context.”
Lashay went on to ask the celebrated filmmaker about BlacKkKlansman’s references to Gone With the Wind, another controversial film for its portrayal of African-Americans, which landed Hattie McDaniel the first Oscar for any Black actor.
Lee also discussed other filmmakers who inspire him today, saying Jordan Peele’s Get Out was exceptional, and he appreciated being able to work with the Oscar winner on BlacKkKlansman.