Review: Inside the Ku Klux Klan

“Documentaries on channel 4,” is a phrase that arouses suspicion from the well-informed, anger from those looking for information and elation from the dogmatic. So when the documentary; ‘Inside the Ku Klux Klan’ appeared on the TV planner, I looked towards the kitchen for my pinch of salt.

Award-winning film-make Dan Vernon jounreys into the heart of America's most notorious white supremacist group, with access to modern day Missouri chapter

Though was this an overreaction? Well that is an question with no direct answer as award winning filmmaker Daniel Vernon not only opened questions in relation to the existence of the KKK, but also to its relevance and perhaps persistent danger in modern America. However, the impartial stance taken by Vernon not only failed to highlight the origins, message and beliefs of the Klan, but a lack of criticism and investigative questioning made steps that could be seen to glorify or excuse the hate group.

These critiques however are not to take away from the technical ability of this well shot, recorded and edited piece of film, which allowed viewers some insight into what is largely a secretive organisation. This therefore makes the writing or at least the lack of insight in the film feel as if this documentary didn’t get up to its potential top speed.

This is a query which I have to raise since many of the people with the limelight in this piece have rather high ranking positions in the organisation; such as one Imperial Wizard and his security, a ‘head priest’ within the group and a family who are now involved with the Klan’s recruitment process.

This ensemble of relatively high-ranking figures in the Klan being caught on film does however deserve some credit. The Klan is a notoriously secretive group and Vernon could have found himself narrating over 10-year-old footage if the film crew had not been granted access.

Vernon’s film however, has fallen short of expectation. With a promising CV which has seen Vernon delve into the ethics behind eating roadkill, Daniel Vernon was perhaps poised to take on this darkly veiled area of American history and shine a light on it with his intelligent, witty and humorous directive style.
However, in keeping true to himself, Vernon has failed to deliver what his audience was hoping for. ‘Inside the Ku Klux Klan’ had the potential to be new material in the ever-growing debate about race relations in the US. Instead, the final product was weak when compared to other documentaries on similar topics.
For example, Louis Theroux’s ‘Louis and the Nazi’s’ or any assortment of short films by VICE about racism, ultimately make this new addition almost irrelevant since it neither goes any deeper into the organisation, begins to highlight the organisations stance or even begins to seriously challenge what it has done or does.

The documentary also limply brushes over the Klan’s history and historical relevance. This means that new viewers gain no real information and it leaves you knowing that there are lapses in evidence and reasoning. This glaring oversight essentially means that not only does the film fail to inform, but inadvertently serves to promote the hate group though its passive impartiality. Furthermore, when some investigative journalism takes place, hardly any of the viewpoints are challenged in person and instead, the opinion is contrasted later on with some narrative footage, dumbing down a number of the interviews and negating the level of insight promised in the title.

Of course, some ridicule is placed on the group in a number of scenarios such as when an individual breaks a car light or when it emerges that three members have been arrested on suspicion of murder, despite the argument being made that they are a peace group.

These small hiccups in the documentary only serve to humanise and essentially ‘de-claw’ an organisation that is still considered a domestic terror threat by the FBI and is still regarded as a collection of people everyone of colour should fear.
The film also fails to highlight just how powerful is organisation was and is, especially with members having links with their local police and government.

Nevertheless, I do not write this review as a means to discredit the seven months of hard work it took to shoot the film, and I do offer my sincerest sympathy towards the team if a large section of this film had been cut due to Channel 4’s restrictive scheduling.
However. If such a scenario has taken place, then I shift the blame onto Channel 4. This is because they have either very poorly explained that this program is part of a larger project ,or they have failed to grant the time this documentary needed in order to run its intended narrative.

In addition to this, it must be said that if this documentary were not to feature the Ku Klux Klan or race relations in America, what you would find is an enjoyable documentary with a film full of character, wit and intelligent planning that has sadly been eclipsed by its lack of depth and critical thought for those who live in the Klan’s legacy.

To conclude, Inside the Ku Klux Klan is not a ‘must watch’ for anyone trying to learn about, further understand or attempt to study the KKK and for those who have learned about, understood or who have studied the KKK, ‘Inside the KKK’ will not offer you anything new, or even rehash the information you already know. For those of you who plan to watch this documentary with someone as a way to get them to learn about the KKK, understand that there are a number of alternative and better-informed documentaries that will serve the purpose.

Alternative viewing
‘Louis and the Nazis’
‘Ku Klux Klan- A Secret History’
‘How the KKK Preys on American Veterans’
‘The KKK vs The Crips vs Memphis City Council’
‘New Klan’
‘Louis Theroux – KKK’