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Spike Lee lays into Trump over protests

Spike Lee

Film director Spike Lee has hit out at President Donald Trump over his response to last year's violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In an expletive-ridden monologue at the Cannes Film Festival, Lee told reporters that following the events in Charlottesville, Mr Trump had the opportunity to denounce the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right.

Instead, Mr Trump had said there was "blame on both sides" in the unrest between neo-Nazi groups and counter-protesters.

The 61-year-old filmmaker said Mr Trump - whom he refused to call by name - had "a chance to say we are about love and not hate", and sharply criticised him for not denouncing the KKK.

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

His new film BlacKkKlansman premiered at Cannes on Monday night to a rousing standing ovation.

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

BlacKkKlansman ends with actual footage from Charlottesville, as well as Mr Trump's televised response.

The final image is an upside-down American flag that fades to black and white.

Focus Features will release the film in August, on the anniversary of Charlottesville.

Having already wrapped the film, Lee added the Charlottesville coda after the unrest last summer.

"Right away, I knew that this had to be the coda for the film, but I had to do something first," said Lee.

Before inserting footage of the car that ploughed through crowds in Virginia, killing counter-protester Heather Heyer, Lee said he telephoned Heyer's mother.

"I was not going to put that murder scene in the film without her blessing," said Lee.

Lee called Charlottesville an "ugly, ugly, ugly blemish on America", but he also repeatedly stressed to the international Cannes media that the racism depicted in BlacKkKlansman is not unique to the United States.

"This right-wing (expletive) is not just America. It's all over the world. And we have to wake up," said Lee.

© PAA 2018 Image credit: Doug Peters/EMPICS.