Spike Lee’s ‘Da 5 Bloods’ follows the story of a group of soldiers who survived the Vietnam war and are now going back there to look for their fallen squad leader as well as the gold he helped them bury. The film depicts the contrast of the cities with the thick forests, the environs in which the soldiers were once plunged and are again thrown back. To capture the essence of the story, the locations needed to be as real as possible. If you want to know where ‘Da 5 Bloods’ was filmed, here’s the answer.
Da 5 Bloods Filming Locations
In an interview with Vulture, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel explained the demanding process of finding the perfect locations, which was critical to the characters’ perspective. He said that the scenes become “more claustrophobic as the film progresses. We start the journey in more open areas, so you’re seeing lots of sky and big vistas, and then as the character Paul begins his descent into madness, the trees begin to engulf him — so we go from open and expansive to oppressive and dark.”
To get the setting right, Da 5 Bloods was filmed across several locations in Vietnam and Thailand. While the cities and towns of these countries were more welcoming, the scenes requiring the thick jungles as the backdrop were trickier. “For some of those more densely packed locations, we’d have a base camp at the bottom of the road, and the actors and crew would have to walk a half-hour to get there,” said Thomas.
‘Da 5 Bloods’ uses several locations in and around the most populous place in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. One of the scenes features a club called Apocalypse Now. It is a real place in the city, and when Spike Lee came to know about it, he knew he had to have a scene in there. The club also serves as one of the several nods by Lee to Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy Award-winning film.
The city made it easier to capture the essence of the Vietnamese culture in the present, but the real challenge was to recreate the Vietnam that had been destroyed in the war. The scenes in the jungles required two forms of filming- one in the present and another in 1971. For this, the crew had to reconstruct the sets with more vegetation to make it look like the Vietnam of the past. For such scenes, the modern sequences would be filmed first, and a ten-day break would be taken before filming the past sequences. During this interval, the crew got help from the farming community to plant trees, to make it look “leafier” than the present.
The jungles weren’t the only challenge for the filming of ‘Da 5 Bloods’. The crew also had to reconstruct the ruins of Vietnam’s My Son temples. Because shooting in the real place was out of the equation, they had to build a temple of their own. “We found a space the size of two football fields next to a suburban market, behind a bunch of commercial buildings,” said Newton Thomas. “We did it all out of wood and Styrofoam, but the detail was so intense you could walk right up to the walls and think they were stone.”
While filming Vietnam in Vietnam gave a more genuine touch to the film, the production also set camp in Thailand for a while. A lot of scenes are actually filmed here, given a makeover for Vietnam. The crew was spotted filming in cities like Chiang-Mai and Bangkok, among others.
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