Don’t be fooled by the Afros, groovy tunes and boogie nights: BlacKkKlansman is not a period piece.

It’s a point Spike Lee would like emphasized on this sunny Wednesday afternoon at Cannes Film Festival. “Can you say that again?” the director asks, as he sits on a terrace overlooking the blue Mediterranean.

His latest film, BlacKkKlansman (in theaters Aug.10), earned a prolonged standing ovation at its Cannes debut Monday night. The film draws a solid through line from the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s to present day, basing its plot on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a young black cop (played by John David Washington) who infiltrated the KKK in the early 1970s in Colorado Springs.

BlacKkklansman closes with footage from last year’s fatal white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. The film will be released on the one-year anniversary of the riots.

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