Kill your Darlings again: Spike Lee’s faulty reparations

Another paragraph on the cutting floor:

The idea of reparations going from Vietnam to the US seems obscene unless we really think international solidarity.

Compared to prison memoirs, accessibility to the American reconstruction of the war is abundantly available in a series of blockbuster films (besides Rambo, Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), there are too many to list, but we consider the Deer Hunter and Good Morning Vietnam (get refs) as indicative. As mentioned in the case of documentary films such as the 2017 Burns and Novick series The Vietnam War which played to large audiences in the US, but was not popular in Vietnam (as mentioned again in our text below). There is a Vietnamese television series on the war that runs for some 50 plus episodes, so far to our knowledge not taken up by the US networks. We also see a continuity here with Spike Lee’s 2020 cinema effort, Da 5 Bloods, where still-anonymous Vietnamese are subject to another fictional defeat and we see a ‘self-reparation’ pay-out of Black US servicemen via a recovered CIA covert ops treasure – the irony of reparations going to US Black Americans, while perhaps admirable within the US racial narrative, is an abomination given the US administration’s refusal to pay the Paris Accords’ sanctioned reparations to Vietnam for the war. And in any case, a box of gold bars buried in an area of the Mekong Delta, subject to flooding rains and movement of land through shifting sedimentation and silt, could hardly be so easily ‘found’ 40 years later, using metal detectors that are themselves obscene in the context of land mines. It may be that this Spike Lee aside should only be a footnote, but the point is that the penalscape (Fuggle 2019: 31) is bound up with the image of the war and how it is renewed along the same demarcation lines even in 2020.

One thought on “Kill your Darlings again: Spike Lee’s faulty reparations

  1. Very glad to hear your comments on the Spike Lee movie. It’s embarrassingly bad. While the story has potential (five guys go back to collect a treasure 40 years after having to abandon and bury it) it has already been told often enough to be a cliche. What Spike Lee has added is placing it in Vietnam and making the characters Black — which is a big deal in the US. Other than that, the images are all out of earlier war movies. Given that the point of the movie appears to be to spotlight the experience of Black soldiers, it’s peculiar that the Vietnamese are all a blur of cliches or else faceless things in black pyjamas that get shot at. I wonder if Vietnamese in the US watched this movie and were embarrassed by it.


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