Spike Lee on the Challenge of Bringing Netflix’s ‘Da 5 Bloods’ to the Screen

On May 31, as protests over police violence roiled nationwide, Spike Lee released a 94-second movie called 3 Brothers on his social media feeds. The short film intercuts disturbing footage of three Black men who died after being choked by police — George Floyd, Eric Garner and Radio Raheem, the fictional, boombox-toting Brooklynite played by Bill Nunn in Lee’s Oscar-nominated 1989 film, Do the Right Thing. “Will History Stop Repeating Itself?” reads a title card.

That’s a question the 63-year-old writer-director has been puzzling over for much of his 40-year filmmaking career. Lee tackles the question anew in his latest movie, Da 5 Bloods, a genre-straddling tale of four Black Vietnam veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who return to their old battle site decades later to retrieve their squad leader’s remains and a buried treasure (the fifth blood is the dead comrade, played in flashback sequences by Chadwick Boseman). Da 5 Bloods, which premieres June 12 on Netflix, interweaves news footage of the war and civil unrest in the U.S. during the Vietnam era with the men’s contemporary journey. Once again, Lee has made a movie that meets the moment.

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