Los Angeles — Filmmaker Spike Lee is at it again.
Talking to us virtually from the “world headquarters of Forty Acres and a Mule, in the people’s republic of Brooklyn, New York,” the 63-year-old auteur who is known for making movies with strong messages (“Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “BlacKkKlansman”), recently did “Da 5 Bloods,” a war drama that follows four African American Vietnam veterans who return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader and a promise of buried treasure. The movie deals not only of the scarring effects of war but also the immorality of the Vietnam War.
The award-winning director-writer-actor-producer, who was supposed to be the head of the jury at the recently cancelled Cannes Film Festival due to the pandemic, revealed that he did not plan his movie to come out this way (via television).
“Everybody’s plans were changed,” he pointed out. “Everybody on this planet.”
Because it will be shown via television, it will reach so many more people immediately, we said. “God works in mysterious ways,” he stressed. “It was not planned. Here’s the plan, the plan was I was going to be the President of the Jury in Cannes and ‘Da 5 Bloods’ world premiere would be in Cannes out of competition. That was the plan. And after that we would get a theatrical run like Martin Scorsese had with ‘The Irishman.’ There’s a thing called COVID-19 that changed plans.”
Filmed in Vietnam and Thailand, Spike shared with us how the experience was filming in Southeast Asia.
“The morning after I won the Oscar, I was on a plane to Thailand,” he narrated. “We shot the majority of the film in Thailand, Chiang-Mai, Bangkok, and other places, and we finished in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, Vietnam. It was one of the most enjoyable, informative experiences of my life. Because as far as East goes, I’ve only been to Japan, that was it. This was my first time in Thailand, first time in Vietnam, and the cast, the crew, the people welcomed me and the Americans there with open arms. It was beautiful. It was hot though. We had to rush because we were trying to get in front of the monsoon season. But in Thailand, there are many days when we had the worst pollution in the world because the farmers burn their crops at that time. But we were ready for it, so it was a great experience and I look forward to going back.”
So did he know of people who went to Vietnam and did some of their stories seep into him that he wanted to exercise in this movie?
“I was born in 1957, so I was 10 years old in 1967, so I was old enough to know what was going on, but young enough not to be drafted,” he revealed. “And I really tried to stay away from the hypothetical questions, but for me going back was, you have to remember that the Vietnam War was the first war that was televised in America’s homes.
“So in New York, the local news was 6, the national news was on 7, so we saw the Vietnam War on TV. That is why when we go back to Vietnam in the film, we shoot Super 16, which is what they shot that documentary footage on the war for. And I remember the riots when Doctor King got assassinated, 1968. I was 11 years old. I remember the anti-war movement protest; I remember when Nixon resigned. All these things, it’s not like World War II, a film I did called ‘Miracle at St. Anna,’ I wasn’t alive then. But the Vietnam War, I was aware of what was going on. No pun intended with the Marvin Gaye song.”