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Da 5 Bloods

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By Laurence Washington

I wouldn’t be surprised if Delroy Lindo receives an Oscar nomination for his chilling portrayal of a high-strung Vietnam vet on the edge in Spike Lee’s post-war drama, Da 5 Bloods.

Lindo plays Paul, who is accompanied by his estranged son David (Jonathan Majors), along with three other veterans who travel back to Vietnam some 40 years after the war to search for the remains of their squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman), and a cache of missing CIA gold they buried during the conflict.

Lee follows a clichéd riddled Hollywood script that dictates whenever a close group of friends search for a buried treasure, treachery and greed will eventually overcome them. That plot device is inescapable in these types of In Search of Films for the sake of moving the story along, and to add some tension to the storyline.

However, if you expect Lee to follow the footsteps of those ‘80s Rambo and Chuck Norris films, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, there’s even a scene of dialogue in which the group are poking fun at those “This Time We Win” films.

Instead of seeing how many things the veterans can blow up, Lee punctuates his story with overtones of race, brotherhood and the effects of  the Vietnam War toward Black soldiers, punctuated by the Vietnamese attitudes toward returning American soldiers.

Da 5 Bloods, has Spike Lee’s signature squirm factor and political in-your-face commentary on the black experience – his filmmaking hallmark. Lee does not disappoint using grainy news clips of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King to give context to Black men fighting a war in Southeast Asia, when they don’t have civil rights at home.

Although Da 5 Bloods happens present day, it is underscored by a ‘70s soundtrack featuring: Marvin Gaye, The Spinners, Curtis Mayfield, Freda Payne and other artist from that period. Lee also does something unique not found in this modern era of special effects and CGI. He doesn’t change the actor’s present day appearances in flashbacks. Surprisingly, it’s not intrusive or jarring, a bold move that totally works.

Mirroring today’s social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement, Da 5 Bloods is a poignant film about Black soldiers returning to Vietnam and the social unrest that fills the streets today.

Editor’s note:Da 5 Bloods is currently streaming on Netflix. The original motion picture soundtrack is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Alexis Chikaeze: Miss Juneteenth shines a light on Black culture and Black history 

By Samantha Ofole-Prince/Photos Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

For Alexis Chikaeze, growing up with Nigerian parents, there were only three career options open to her.

“A lot of Nigerian households know the options we are usually given is to become a doctor, a lawyer or a disgrace,” says the 18-year-old who makes her acting debut in the historical drama Miss Juneteenth. “And although acting was always in the back of my head, I never thought I would completely act on it,” continues the actress who ran track at school and also considered becoming a professional athlete.

In February 2019, things changed for Chikaeze. A track and field injury left her questioning her career options and she started pursuing acting. In May, she signed with an agent, snagged an audition a week later and landed the audacious role starring alongside Nicole Beharie and Kendrick Sampson in the movie Miss Juneteenth.

“It took a bit of convincing for my dad, but my mom was pretty open to the idea and as time went on my parents became fully supportive, which I am very thankful for. I just had to go in with the mindset that you have to prove to them that this is where your passion is,” shares Chikaeze who will be attending Howard University in the fall to study theater and arts.

A film which highlights a Black pageant in Texas, she plays Nicole Behaire’s 14-year old rebellious daughter, Kai Marie Jones, who is forced to take part in the annual Miss Juneteenth pageant. It’s a scholarship competition named for the day slavery was finally abolished in Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.  A former beauty queen, Turquoise Jones (Behaire), was once crowned Miss Juneteenth, but never reaped the benefits the title promised. Now a struggling single mother working two jobs, she doesn’t want her daughter repeating the same mistakes in life that she made and knows participating in the competition will open doors for Kai.

“In the film, it's actually a reverse as I have done three pageants in the past and knew the basics. I am a big fan of pageants as it built my confidence,” says Chikaeze who admits she wasn’t initially familiar with the Juneteenth holiday, which is now celebrated in most major cities across the United States.

“With my background being Nigerian, I didn’t know about Juneteenth. I have heard it here and there, but I really didn't know about it and it wasn’t something I learned about it in school, but I took the time to learn what it was, that it started in Texas and this year is the 155th anniversary.”

Filmed in Texas and directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples, who drew inspiration from the pageants she watched as a young girl, the film is an uplifting one that celebrates Black culture, Back beauty and Black excellence.

A winner of the Lone Star Award for Best Texan Film at the SXSW Film Festival, Miss Juneteenth premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and it was a proud moment for the young actress who took her mother to the movie premiere.

“She was bawling her eyes out the entire time. I knew it was a special moment for her because my parents grew up in Nigeria and didn't grow up with everything and it made me cry seeing how emotional and how proud she was.”

Citing John Boyega, Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong'o as some of her favorite actors and "Insecure” and Ava DuVernay‘s “Queen Sugar” as her top shows, Chikaeze has set her sights on an acting career which she hopes will take off.

“Lupita speaks clearly about what she believes in and John Boyega, who is also Nigerian, stands up for what is right. I love the real-life awkwardness how “Insecure” and “Queen Sugar” talks about real life issues, like racism and things that are relevant and prevalent in the U.S. today. The projects I want to be in are things that make a difference and bring awareness to certain situations. Making this movie was a bit of an educational process and the most important part, especially in light of what is going on right now, is that it shines a light on Black culture and Black history and commemorates such an important holiday that is Juneteenth. We are important and our lives matter and I am hoping that it will make people read up on the holiday and read up on Black culture and Black history.”

Editor’s note: Miss Juneteenth debuted on Friday June 19 on on-demand. To view the trailer visit,

https://youtu.be/Vb3oREG_DdA

Amazon Studios Acquires Story Syndicate’s Untitled Voting Rights Documentary Featuring Stacey Abrams
Timely Film by directors Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés Explores Voter Suppression and is Slated for Release this Year

Amazon Studios has acquired worldwide rights to Untitled Voting Rights documentary from production company Story Syndicate. The documentary, which prominently features insights from politician, lawyer and author Stacey Abrams, is directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Liz Garbus and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lisa Cortés. Currently in post-production, the timely film is produced by Garbus, Cortés, Academy Award-winning producer Dan Cogan and Abrams. The documentary is slated for release on Amazon Prime Video this year with a theatrical run prior.
The documentary examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States in anticipation of the 2020 presidential election. The film interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has challenged our democracy from the very beginning. With the perspective and expertise of Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, the documentary will offer an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
“We are honored to be working with brilliant filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés and the remarkable Stacey Abrams on this timely and important documentary,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “In this critical election year, Stacey's expertise and fearless stance against voter suppression will resonate strongly with audiences everywhere and can inspire positive change in supporting all Americans’ right to cast their vote.”
“Working with Stacey Abrams is the honor of a lifetime,” Garbus and CorteĢs said. “The story of voting rights is not just one of the Civil Rights Movement and the 1960’s. It’s a story for right now. It’s a monster movie where you think you’ve mortally wounded the beast, but it keeps rearing its ugly head, as last week's primary in Georgia so painfully demonstrated. And nothing less than democracy is at stake.”
“Raising the alarm about voter suppression is critical to the integrity of our democracy,” Abrams said. “The failure of state leaders in Georgia and other states across the country to protect the rights of voters, as seen in the 2018 election and 2020 primaries, must be exposed and it must be stopped. Justice in our criminal justice system and the sacred right to vote are not equal for all Americans and we must find a way to change these systematic inequalities. As the 2020 election approaches, this documentary will help voters realize the power of their voices, and it will inspire them to overcome the obstacles of voter suppression.”

Stacey Abrams is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO and political leader. She served for 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Democratic Leader. In 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, winning more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Abrams was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States, and she was the first black woman and first Georgian to deliver a Response to the State of the Union. After witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the Secretary of State’s office, Abrams launched Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system through programs such as Fair Fight 2020, an initiative to fund and train voter protection teams in 20 battleground states. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. She is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award and a current member of the Board of Directors for the Center for American Progress.
The project was strategically assembled by UTA and was a collaborative effort between the company’s Independent Film Group, Alternative Television, and Culture & Leadership divisions. UTA Independent Film Group negotiated the deal on behalf of all parties. Additionally, Abrams is represented by UTA. 


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