Jay Nelson on ‘Da 5 Bloods’ short documentary

(New short doc on the poster art for Da 5 Bloods)

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is enjoying a spectacular run on Netflix. The film, currently at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, is about four African American vets who battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.

Now, Cut+Run editor Jay Nelson has cut an entertaining and moving new short documentary which focuses on art director of the film’s marketing campaign, Kenny Gravillis. Titled, The Revolutionary Art of Spike Lee’s New Netflix Film, we get an unprecedented look at the creation of Da 5 Bloods Black Panther-inspired posters.

The doc also features an in-depth conversation with former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas, whose work inspired the film’s key art.  Watch the film below:

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What was your reaction when Spike Lee approached you? It would be inappropriate to even attempt any cosmic commentary on the timing of receiving an assignment like this film about Emory Douglas working with Spike on a movie poster. The project came to me in early March before the lockdown even started. But nonetheless I found myself creating a film about the Black Panther Press and its importance to Black America during one of the most tumultuous social revolutions in American History. It made me hyper-aware that the same injustices that spawned the party’s formation have been happening ever since.

Cut+Run’s Jay Nelson

We know how time-consuming a project of this scope can be. What caused you to take it on? I never take on a documentary subject unless I feel there’s an important lesson to be learned from it, and making one is essentially like getting four years of college credit on the matter. It just so happened that when the unrest finally came to a boil with the injustice surrounding George Floyd I had just inherited a vocabulary and renewed appreciation for what it means to be black in America and a greater understanding of what this rebellion is all about.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process? We locked our edit 2 weeks before the protests. Spike was, as always, on the mark in his choice of timely subject matter and as a result of his commitment to authenticity in his representation, hiring Emory to do the artwork not only served to bring the importance of the Black Panther Press to light, but also that the same horrible and repeated injustice that was being served people of color in this country then still finds it’s purchase in today’s world and in fact we haven’t come that far at all. 

How did working on a project like this affect you? I wouldn’t trade the time I spent grinding away at this film for anything,” he continues. “And I have an enormous admiration for what the likes of Eldridge Clever, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Emory Douglas were fighting for. I only hope the world hears it again.

Da 5 Bloods is currently streaming on Netflix. Here is the trailer for the film:

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1