Spike Lee (‘Da 5 Bloods’) on American injustice, Delroy Lindo’s ‘monumental work,’ the state of Black cinema and more [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

With “Da 5 Bloods,” writer, director and producer Spike Lee tells a story about Black Vietnam War veterans who “fought and died for a country that has not shown love to them.” But that legacy goes all the way back to the founding of the United States of America. Watch our exclusive video interview with Lee above.

The title soldiers in Lee’s film return to Vietnam in the present day to retrieve the remains of their squad leader (played in flashbacks by the late Chadwick Boseman) as well as a hidden stash of gold. But they’re also still struggling with the trauma of their service. It’s not a new story for African-Americans to die for a country that continually betrays them, “from Crispus Attucks, who was the first American to die in the Revolutionary War at the Boston Massacre, to today.” So he wanted to explore “the mind state of these soldiers who are putting their lives on the line for democracy, peace and love and justice, and then not receiving that since we got here in 1619.”

“Da 5 Bloods” was acclaimed upon its release and has earned nominations from the Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards, among other groups, though lead actor Delroy Lindo has been overlooked by a couple of awards organizations. “Whether Delroy gets nominated [for an Oscar] or not, which I hope he does, the work stands,” Lee says. “Sometimes, these organizations, these voting bodies, for whatever reason, they overlook monumental work. But the work, awards or no awards, will stand the test of time.”

Hollywood awards have always had a mixed history when it comes to recognizing Black cinema. But even though this is a landmark year for Black films with other contenders like “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “One Night in Miami” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” in the discussion, Lee is in “wait-and-see mode” when considering where Hollywood goes from here: “We’ve had these times before where there’s a whole slew of films by Black filmmakers … and then there’s a nine-year, 10-year drought.” That said, he’s especially proud of two former students, Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland“) and Shaka King (“Judas”), whose work has been recognized, a testament to what he considers “the best film school in the world,” NYU.

And though there’s a chance for Black filmmakers to make history, it’s important not to get too caught up on firsts. Because before any Black directors were nominated for Oscars, “there was Oscar Micheaux, Gordon Parks, Melvin Van Peebles, Ossie Davis, so we’re not the first. We’re here because the groundwork has been done.” But “whatever the results are,” for “Da 5 Bloods,” “we’re good. Whatever happens, whatever shakes out, this film is going to be looked at for many years to come.”

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