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Quentin Tarantino says it’s “about damn time” people began questioning the place of the Confederate flag in America, calling the symbol an “American swastika.”

The director made the remark while speaking to Britain’s Telegraph about his latest film, The Hateful Eight, which is set a few years after the Civil War.

Tarantino said he wanted the film to reflect race relations in the U.S., and noted how recent events like the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the mass shooting last summer at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, made the film “more relevant than we ever could have imagined.”

The reaction after the Charleston shooting — which included officials in South Carolina removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol’s grounds — surprised Tarantino.

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“All of a sudden, people started talking about the Confederacy in America in a way they haven’t before,” he told the Telegraph. “I mean, I’ve always felt the Rebel flag was some American Swastika. And, well, now, all of a sudden, people are talking about it, and now they’re banning it, and now it’s not OK to have it on f–king license plates, and coffee cups, and stuff.”

“And people are starting to question about stuff like statues of Bedford Forrest [the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard] in parks. Well, it’s about damn time, if you ask me,” the director added.

Speaking to EW, Tarantino said The Hateful Eight ended up being a serious examination of the Civil War and its aftermath, but he didn’t know that it would be from the start.

“I really was coming more from a mystery angle, creating a little Agatha Christie thing. That was what got me putting pen to paper. Obviously, I knew I was going to deal with the Civil War. But I didn’t know it would end up being so serious when it came to that issue,” Tarantino said. “I was realizing when I was watching it about [seven] weeks ago that this could almost be a post-apocalyptic movie, to some degree or another. It’s like this frozen wasteland, and the apocalypse has destroyed every semblance of their society and their way of life, and these survivors are huddled together in this pitiless wasteland shelter. And suddenly they’re all blaming each other for the apocalypse, but the apocalypse is the Civil War. But that wasn’t what I was necessarily thinking about on page 72 in my bedroom when I was writing it.”

For more from Tarantino, read his full EW interview on The Hateful Eight. The film is playing in theaters now.

The Hateful Eight
  • Movie
  • 187 minutes