Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Spike Lee's latest film doesn't have enough wombats in it.

Spike Lee was recently in the news for criticizing director Clint Eastwood for not portraying African-American soldiers in Eastwood's recent WWII-era war films. The good news is that Lee decided to engage in a useful and productive form of criticism: making his own World War II film starring African-American soldiers. The bad news is that Spike Lee couldn't be bothered to get the history right either (italics in original):
It is a story that underpins Italy’s postwar democracy: the honour lost under Benito Mussolini was regained through the struggle of the partisans and their help for the Allies. Now the partisans are fighting for their reputation after a new film by the director Spike Lee which, they say, insults the memory of the Italian Resistance during the Second World War.

Miracle at St Anna retells the story of the massacre of 560 civilians – including women and children – in August 1944 by SS troops as they retreated northwards in the face of the Allied advance.

The film, which highlights the role of African-American soldiers in the war, suggests that antiFascist [sic] partisans indirectly caused the atrocity by taking refuge in the village and then abandoning the residents to their fate.

It even shows a partisan named Rodolfo collaborating with the Nazis. This runs directly counter to the accepted Italian version of events, which is that the slaughter was not a reprisal but an unprovoked act of brutality and that the hunt for partisans was a pretext.
Here's another big problem that I'm going to have with this film. As Spike Lee puts it:
The hardest shot in the film, we had to bayonet a baby. That was rough. The Italian stuntman who played that Nazi, his name is Georgio, he’s Italian, he’s one of the lead stuntman. That whole day, all the Italian extras, they hated him. They were spitting at him and he was like, 'I’m just an actor!'
I'm willing to bet that "Georgio" is seriously considering being credited as "Allen Smithee" for his stunt work.

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