I reviewed Spike Lee’s 95-second short film 3 Brothers for this week’s Cine-file Chicago list.
Spike Lee’s 3 BROTHERS (American)
Available to watch on Spike Lee’s Twitter account here
Spike Lee’s first quarantine short film, the coronavirus-themed NEW YORK NEW YORK, was a joyous love letter to the director’s hometown in which he depicted iconic NYC locations mostly absent of people, set to Frank Sinatra’s famous 1979 recording of the song by the same name. His second, 3 BROTHERS, arriving just weeks later, is a simple but devastating 95-second piece of agitprop: Lee intercuts the climactic scene of his 1989 masterpiece DO THE RIGHT THING – the murder of Radio Raheem at the hands of the police – with cell-phone footage captured by witnesses to the similar real-life murders of Eric Garner in 2014 and George Floyd in 2020. Clips from all three films are linked by image (matching cuts of the cops placing their victims in illegal chokeholds) as well as sound (the refrain “I can’t breathe!” spoken by both Garner and Floyd). 3 BROTHERS ends by juxtaposing shots of each victim’s lifeless body while a bystander in the video of Floyd’s murder can be heard admonishing the cops, “You just really killed that man, bro!” The only onscreen text is a rhetorical question, “When Will History Stop Repeating Itself?,” that appears in crimson letters over a black screen at the film’s beginning. DO THE RIGHT THING, which ended with Samuel L. Jackson’s disc-jockey character reminding his radio station’s listeners (and, by extension, the movie’s viewers) to vote in an upcoming election, should not have remained this relevant 31 fucking years after its initial release. Watching this brief, gut-wrenching snuff film of a coda ought to infuriate anyone with a heart and a brain, and serves as a similar call to action. (2020, 2 min) MGS