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‘Da 5 Bloods’: A New Look at Race & War, Patriotism of African Americans

Acclaimed director Spike Lee returns with a new rumination on race in America, through the lens of African American veterans of the Vietnam War.

Premiering on Netflix, Da 5 Bloods stars Delroy Lindo, “The Wire’s” Clarke Peters and Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Norm Lewis as a quartet of African-American veterans who make the trip back to Vietnam, decades after serving in the war. They’re seeking the remains of a fallen comrade (played by Black Panther‘s Chadwick Boseman, in flashbacks), as well as some mysterious treasure.

With its depiction of the controversial war, politics are inevitable — as they are in most of Lee’s films. A major theme is that African-American soldiers fought and died for a country that didn’t fulfill its promise to them back home.

Lee has been vocal about this, in his press interviews leading up the new film’s premiere.

“From the very beginning we’ve been fighting for this country, from the beginning!” Lee said on The Daily Show, while discussing historical figure Crispus Attucks, the first person killed during the Boston Massacre, which led to the American Revolution.

“We’ve been fighting for this country, as you said, that doesn’t fight for us,” Lee told host Trevor Noah. “We’ve been loving this country that doesn’t love us. So when this guy Agent Orange talks about our brother Colin Kaepernick not being patriotic, that’s some b-s. … It’s about the same thing that people are marching all across the streets in this world.”

Lee has since divulged that he refuses to say President Trump’s name, hence the term Agent Orange instead.

Incidentally, a main character in Lee’s new film wears a MAGA hat, providing tension with the rest of the characters. Lee decided to include this to display the variety of viewpoints even within a close knit group of friends, and perhaps to depict the minority of African American Trump supporters out there.

Lee, however, has been vocal in his criticism of Trump for years.

“When Agent Orange talks about, ‘If you don’t like America you can leave…’ F–k that!” Lee also said to Vanity Fair. “We built this motherf***er! I mean, we’ve been nothing but patriotic! And this great, great country has not really made its promise yet to people of color.”

Da 5 Bloods does feel timely for some observers, in the wake of George Floyd’s death. As Lee purports, African Americans are unfairly marginalized in contrast to their contributions to the U.S.

Lee’s most recent film, 2018’s BlacKkKlansman was nominated for Best Picture, and earned him his first competitive Academy Award, for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Da 5 Bloods premiered June 12 on Netflix. It’s rated R.


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