Civil RightsColorado SpringsHot Sheet

New Spike Lee movie ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is based on Colorado case

Author: Mark Harden - May 16, 2018 - Updated: May 17, 2018

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Actor John David Washington, from left, director Spike Lee, and Adam Driver pose for photographers during a photo call for the film ‘BlacKkKlansman’ at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

“BlacKkKlansman,” Spike Lee’s forthcoming movie about white supremacy that the director premiered Monday at the Cannes Film Festival, stems from a late-1970s investigation by a black detective with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Lee’s latest film was greeted with a standing ovation at the festival. It’s set for commercial release in August — on the first anniversary of the deadly violence at white-supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a counter-protester was run down by a car and killed.

Says the Associated Press:

The 1979-set film, loosely based on a true story, is about black police detective Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington, Denzel’s son) and a Jewish detective (Adam Driver) who together infiltrated a Ku Klux Klan cell in Colorado. Topher Grace plays former KKK leader David Duke.

Lee on Tuesday went on a tirade at Cannes, criticizing President Donald Trump — whom he didn’t name directly, AP says — of not going far enough to denounce the alt-right following the Charlottesville violence. Trump at the time said there was “blame on both sides” in the confrontation.

Said Lee:

It was a defining moment and he could have said to the United States and the world that we’re better than that.

After Lee finished production on “BlacKkKlansman,” he added an ending with actual footage from Charlottesville and Trump’s televised response.

Ron Stallworth in an April 2014 photo, seen holding his Klansman certificate and membership card. (Via Gazette/Courtesy photo.)

In February, TV station KTSM in El Paso interviewed the real Ron Stallworth, who now lives in Texas. He told how he managed to infiltrate the Klan by posing as a white man on the phone, with a white officer standing in as Stallworth in face-to-face meetings. He even interacted with David Duke.

Lee’s movie is based on Stallworth’s 2014 book on his Colorado Springs experiences, “Black Klansman.”

> Here’s a 2014 Gazette slideshow about Stallworth and his Klan investigation.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.