The release of a Spike Lee Joint is a special occasion for the world. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the Netflix release of Da 5 Bloods since Lee’s 2018 hit BlackKklansman, but this joint hits differently. Da 5 Bloods tells the story of four American American Vietnam veterans who return to the country decades after the war in hopes to find the remains of their friends remains to bring them to Arlington National Cemetery for a proper burial, and a treasure hidden in the forest originally found when in battle.
Spike Lee is no stranger to shedding light on the injustices of Black people in America. From Do The Right Thing, Crooklyn, Malcolm X, to Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning BlackKklansman, each Spike Lee joint tells a new story about the African American experience. Da 5 Bloods may be Lee’s best story yet that’s brimming with anger, ethos and payback.
First and foremost, watching Da 5 Bloods was a learning experience for me. As I grow further into adulthood and learning more about the American American experience in this country over the past 400 years, it’s been a disturbing revelation the lack we as American’s know about Black history, true Black history. Sure, we learn about Vietnam in history class and through the world of film and television, but we don’t hear about Vietnam – or any war for that matter – from the perspective of Black soldiers. No mention of Milton L. Olive III, the first Black man to be awarded the Metal of Honor in Vietnam at the age of 18. Men like this fall into the shadows of history.
As we follow Paul (Delroy Lindo), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Otis (Clarke Peters) back through Vietnam to find the remains of their old squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman) and the gold bars they found and buried while in combat, we quickly learn how their lives turned out over the last 40 years. Paul suffers from major PTSD due to his time in the war that’s led to an irreversible mental state. Otis has a loving family at home, but also fathered a child with a Vietnamese women Tiên (Lê Y Lan) – a tender B-story for film. Eddie owns a successful line of car dealerships, until his charade falls apart and it’s revealed to be flat broke. The only character we didn’t really learn about was Melvin, who was more used for comedic effect, but it was amazing that Lee found an opportunity to incorporate Whitlock, Jr’s signature “sheeeeeeeeeeeee-it” that he made famous from his role in The Wire. Little gems like this is what makes Lee an amazing filmmaker, he gives his audiences we want – and he know’s what we want!
One of the key takeaways from Lee’s latest joint is the power of brotherhood. Now more than ever, it’s amazing to see the telling of a story revolving about the love that Black men can share with one another, and it’s a shame that this kind of story isn’t in more films and television. Beyond the bond of being war buddies, they share the bond of being black men in a society where they aren’t always wanted.
I found it uncanny how parallel issues can span multiple decades. The way Norman explained walking out of his home “every time I walkout my front door see cops patrolling my neighborhood like its some kind of police state, I can feel just how much i ain’t worth.” So many black men still feel that way today, myself included. Or the images of multiple cities were under fire in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and how the government send 600,000 troops into cities to crush the rebellion against black people in the streets – um, that sounds extremely familiar. It’s absurd this very similar occurrence just happened in our own country again, in 2020, over the past 2 weeks with the death George Floyd – something that Lee could’ve have forecast when writing this screenplay, but look how the universe works. the Da 5 Bloods really shows how far America has not progressed with it comes to policy and race relations.
It’s needlessly to say Da 5 Bloods is going to be a huge Oscar contender this year. Even in a normal year if Covid-19 hadn’t shut down the world and the movie industry was running status quo, Da 5 Bloods would still be one of the most talked about releases of the year. Lee is a shoe-in for Best Screenplay and Best Director nominations, and it would be shocking if the film didn’t earn a Best Picture nomination in The Academy’s newly expanded field of 10 films. But let’s really talk about Delroy Lindo’s performance. I sincerely hope he’ll be submitted in the Lead Actor category because there tends to be an issue in Hollywood where actors, particular of color, are nominated for supporting roles when they are clearly lead – hence why there’s only one Black Lead Actor and Actress in the Academy’s 92 years. My hopes is The Academy doesn’t pigeonhole Lindo into supporting because that’s clearly not his role in Da 5 Bloods. Lindo is the driving force of this movie, giving a performance that hasn’t been seen from a leading male actor so far this year, and Lindo deserves a Best Actor nomination for this role, and I’ll go as far as saying deserves a to win based on what’s been released so far this year. Lindo’s clearly digs into the role of Paul, an elder black man who’s been scorned by systemic racism all his life. He could be categorized as an “angry black man” by the unassuming eye, but its the frustrations he’s had to live with on his back his entire life, being a Black man in America. 30 years of living with PTSD from the war and not properly knowing how to handle it doesn’t make things any easier – which is the case for millions of veterans all across this country of every age and color.
It would also be amazing to see supporting actor nominations for Chadwick Boseman, and especially Clarke Peters – or both.
I want people to look at this in the lenses of being more than a war film. This Spike Lee joint is a revelation for people who don’t realize that there are Black stories alongside all the white stories in American history.
There are generations of black soldiers all over this country, this world, that have stories similar to Paul, Otis, Eddie, Norman and Melvin, but those stories are hidden in the back of the dark closet of American history. There’s no better time than right now to realize that we as a society need to be more cognizant of amplifying historical Black figures and experiences beyond whats told in the history books that we’re forced to be taught from. Let’s applaud Spike Lee for always pushing the boundaries of Black stories and creating characters that are known to so many Black people in America, but seldom known or seen by the masses. These men and women are just an afterthought in our nations history, but they shouldn’t be. Amplify Black stories. Amplify Black experiences. Amplify Black history.