It was the 10th Anniversary of the International Montreal Black Film Festival, with the premiere of Spike Lee’s new film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. Spike Lee was in attendance and being honoured with its 1st Pioneer Award, presented by Habs co-captain PK Subban, seen here, followed by a Q and A. The theatre was full as we anxiously awaited the newest creation from Da’ Man
“Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” successfully financed through the KICKSTARTER campaign, is a remake of the 1973 blaxploitation film GANJA and HESS, directed by BILL GUNN.
It opens yet again with a superb title sequence with dancer extroadinaire, LIL’ BUCK dancing throughout various urban settings in Brooklyn….Unforgettable
Hess Green, the main character, is a sophisticated, well dressed anthropologist and expert of mythical blood rituals. He lives in a mansion in Martha’s Vineyard, and has a rare collection of African Art.
His team comprises of a research assistant, Lafayette Hightower. Hightower is a suicidal man with a failed marriage. His troubles seep into his relationship with Hess when he attacks Hess and successfully kills him, stabbing him with an Ashanti dagger. Despaired, Lafayette kills himself, unbeknownst that Hess Greene is actually not dead and revives as a “vampire”, with a sudden hunger for human blood.
Mrs Hightower contacts Hess looking for her “missing husband”. He agrees to have her stay at his guest house as she awaits “his return”. She finds out about her husband’s suicidal fate in a very strange occurrence, falls in love with Hess, they marry, and she too becomes a “vampire”. Their lives explode into a devilish reality, and we see it all go down.
An interesting scope into the addiction of blood and immortality
I have to admit I had no idea that it was a “remake”, and I understand that Spike wanted to keep it that way.
I thought..not a typical “Spike Lee film”, but indeed it was. The cinematic treatment of the film was very Spike. The beauty of each scene, the music, its realness and rawness rang true. Of course, there were beautiful people, and immaculate detail in each set. Mr Hightower’s house was beautifully decorated with African artifacts and paintings that were spectacular.I’m not sure if Spike intended to do a film that mirrored the blaxploitation genre, but for me it did. The Blaxploitation style was alive and kicking in this film and I loved it. It had a more than usual independent feel to it, as well
The acting seemed a bit discolated, at time, from its script, and some actors seemed “green”
The few that stood out for me were actor Stephen Tyrone Williams “Hess Greene”, the Wire’s Felicia Pearson, who played a victim of Hess, and Mr Greene’s butler, Seneschal Higginbottom, played by Rami Malek. They made the film.
The scene locations were shot beautifully, with the raw graininess of Brooklyn, and the exquisitiveness of Martha’s Vineyard.
As per usual, the music soundtrack was amazing, featuring music by unsigned artists as the background to the film.
The mostly Hip Hop soundtrack created layers of emotions that assisted in the film’s somewhat discombobulated scenes.
There was a lack of development in some of the characters relationships. Consistently throughout the film, it felt as if situations appeared with no lead, rhyme or reason, hence Hess and Ganja’s courtship. Some scenes were scattered and rushed with an emphasis on rushed. Perhaps the lack of development is due to its amazing 16 day shoot, which I learned at the premiere was shot and edited by 2 of his students at NYU.
Is this a typical Spike Lee film? NO. Did I love the film? SORTA. It was interesting. It was different and I love that about it. I have much more respect for the man who influenced my desire to work in this industry, and for just doin’ his thang…being a filmmaker. As he mentioned that night “This is not me working outside of the box, this is me being a filmmaker”. TOUCHE SPIKE..TOUCHE!