The Oscar-nominated filmmaker reps his borough in these five-short nonfiction profiles produced by the popular ride-sharing service.
Spike Lee's Da Republic of Brooklyn, a short-form series documenting five passionate Uber drivers based in Brooklyn, is a charming take on working within the realms of branded content. That may sound advertorial in nature, and while it undoubtedly is—each short piece concludes with the prominent Uber logo front and center—Lee grounds the material in the personal stories of its subjects.
"That’s how we do it in Brooklyn—that’s the Brooklyn hustle."
The five men and women showcased below each have a few things in common, being current residents of Brooklyn and using Uber as a source of income (or in the case of the bicycle-riding Sunny Shen, Uber Eats). Beyond that, each of the interviewees sits in a very large, plush chair to discuss their diverse backgrounds with Mr. Lee. Some are single parents, some are struggling actors, some are dog-lovers, and each has relied on Uber to help pay their ever-escalating bills; you may have heard that Brooklyn is rather expensive these days.
If the shorts feel a little fluffy and abrupt with their transitions—one second a subject may be discussing their love for the arts and the next how they rely on the ride-sharing service currently worth $4.8 billion—it's worth noting that the versions below are truncated for commercial purposes, designed to play in theaters before the trailers begin. The entire project runs approximately 45 minutes in length.
Resisting cynicism (yes, it is a little odd seeing Spike Lee team up with Uber to promote the Borough of Kings), the series is a solid example of a work-for-hire that persistently retains its director's voice, in this case, quite literally. If you have the sway to make it your own while still "selling a product," a job like this can come up with its own rewards, especially if you can tie it all back to your hometown. Lee handpicked the drivers themselves, each of whom, we should note, was paid for their participation.
“I was attracted to this project because I know a lot of people who drive on the Uber platform," Lee said in a statement, "and it gives them the flexibility they need to pursue their dreams. That’s how we do it in Brooklyn—that’s the Brooklyn hustle.”
To watch the full-length versions, click here, and to watch the shorter, trailer versions getting the most rotation, scroll down.
What did you think of the five shorts above? Worthwhile? Sentimental? Too brief? Let us know in the comments below and remember, you can watch the full uncut versions here.