Cannes 2018: “It was a defining moment, and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than
Spike Lee denounced President Donald Trump as “that motherf—er” in the White House in a lengthy, curse-laden speech during the Tuesday press conference for his new film “BlacKkKlansman,” which premiered Monday at the Cannes Film Festival to a prolonged standing ovation.
In the morning press conference, the filmmaker explained his decision to end the film with documentary footage of the violent protest by neo-Nazis and white supremacists last summer in Charlottesville, Va., including scenes of the killing of counter-protester Heather Heyer.
“We have a guy in the White House — I’m not gonna say his f—ing name — who defined that moment not just for Americans but the world, and that motherf—er was given the chance to say we are about love, not hate,” Lee said. “And that motherf—er did not denounce the motherf—ing Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazis motherf—ers. It was a defining moment, and he could have said to the world, not just the United States, that we were better than that.”
“BlacKkKlansman,” which follows the fact-based story of an African American police officer who infiltrated the Klan in the 1970s, ends with a montage of footage from the Charlottesville riots and a dedication to Heyer.
“It’s an ugly, ugly, ugly blemish on the United States of America,” Lee said of the riots — and the response of Trump, who initially blamed “both sides” for the violence. “Heather should be alive now. It’s a murderous act.”
Lee said he reached out to Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, and received her permission to include footage of her daughter being run down by a white supremacist in a car. “I was not gonna put that murder scene in the film without her blessing,” he said.
He focused his ire on Trump. “That motherf—er has the nuclear code,” he said.
“We look to our leaders. They give us direction to make moral decisions,” he continued, adding that Trump’s encouragement of right-wing extremists is a worldwide issue. “This is not just something that pertains to the United States of America, this bulls— has gone over the world. This right-wing bulls— is not just America, it is all over the world, and we have to wake up. We can’t be silent. It’s not a black, white, or brown [problem], it’s everybody.”
“This film, to me, is a wake-up call,” he concluded. “Stuff is happening, and it’s topsy-turvy and the fake has been trumpeted as the truth. That’s what this film is about.
“I know my heart, I don’t care what the critics say or anybody else, but we are on the right side of history with this film.”
At another point in his response, Lee challenged U.S. complacency about its history. “The so-called American cradle of democracy, that’s bulls—,” he said.
“The United States of America was built on the genocide of native people and slavery. That is the fabric of the United States of America,” he said. “As my Brooklyn brother Jay-Z would say, facts.”