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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Show Your Support:
Spike Lee's New One Opens Tomorrow

In late July I announced that Spike Lee would be releasing his newest film, "Miracle At St. Anna" in September. Well it is September, and the movie is set to open nationally tomorrow, Friday, September 26th. This is my thoughtful reminder that you should make a serious attempt to support this film in it's opening weekend.

Spike and author James McBride collaborate to bring McBride's 2003 novel "Miracle in St. Anna," to life on the big screen. The movie is set during World War II and tells a tale of four Buffalo Soldiers - Black GIs who fought in the segregated (all Black) 92nd Infantry Unit of the United States Army - who find themselves behind enemy lines after saving the life of a young civilian Italian boy.

Though the novel and movie are both works of fiction, the story itself was loosely based on the real life accounts of McBride's uncle, who served in the 92nd Infantry Unit. However, as a work of fiction, McBride (and undoubtedly Lee as well) took some literary liberties (in the name of entertainment) and as a result have been accused of propagating historical inaccuracies in the film. In an article by Eric Harrison for the Houston Chronicle titled "St. Anna writer worked closely with Lee," McBride addresses those criticisms:

"The massacre at the church and the town was real. The events leading up to it as depicted in the movie were fictional. (The movie has been criticized by some in Italy for showing one of the partisans — Italians opposed to the Fascists and Nazis — as a turncoat. McBride explains that he created the traitorous character in order to show how divided Italy was during World War II.)

"The war in Italy was personal. I was trying to show the personal nature of war.

"The Buffalo Soldiers (in reality, as opposed to the movie and book) got to the town about 10 days or 12 days after the actual massacre. That's my understanding of it. There were no soldiers, no Americans or British or any Allied forces in the town at the time. They were in the area, but they hadn't yet reached the area that the Nazis had occupied."

Spike Lee, no stranger to controversy, seems to take the criticisms with pointed stride. Earlier this year the media took interest in his criticism of beloved director Clint Eastwood for what he perceived as the obvious absence of Black soldiers in the films "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima". More recently a article titled "With respect, Lee sticks to his guns" clarifies his position on the lack of African American characters in Hollywood war movies:

"More than 1.1 million African-Americans served in World War II," Lee says. "How many of their stories have we seen in movies?"

"For me, I think these are great American stories, not just African-American stories," Lee continues. "They were patriots, and hardly anyone knows their history."

Off the top of his head, Lee offers two examples of little-known stories of minorities fighting during World War II.

The first involves the 100th Infantry Division, the Japanese-American unit that fought alongside the Buffalo Soldiers in Italy and received a Presidential Unit Citation for their efforts.

"Here you had Japanese-Americans in Europe fighting against the Nazis at the same time many Japanese-Americans were pulled out of their houses and had their businesses taken away," Lee says. "They were fighting for a country that put them in prison camps."

Lee says he's also looking forward to the George Lucas-produced "Red Tail," which will tell the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots to fly in a combat squadron during World War II.

"There was a TV movie before, but this is George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic. That's big," Lee says excitedly. "Like I said, there are stories out there and they need to be told.

Whether or not "Miracle at St Anna" is Lee's attempt at balancing the racial void of American war movies, makes for great conversation, but only Spike knows the truth. Either way, it is always nice to see a beautiful Black cast get some attention. As always, kudos for Mr. Lee for making that happen. Support positive Black films. Activism in spending!


Sources and More Information:

Spike Lee on Wikipedia
Spike Lee's Filmography on Wikipedia

St. Anna
writer worked closely with Lee by Eric Harrson
|Houston Chronicle
Eastwood, Lee feud over war movies (MSN Entertainment)
With respect, Lee sticks to his guns (
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