Spike Blasts Eastwood For Forgetting Black Soldiers in War Flicks…

Source : Times Online

Spike Lee said black soldiers were conspicuous by their absence in Clint Eastwood war films.

Noted filmaker and actor Clint Eastwood has brought on the ire of fellow filmaker and actor Spike Lee for omitting black soldiers in his recent movies Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Those movies were praised by critics but I guess they also forgot that black soldiers gave their lives in those historic battles also.(Is it me or is Spike basically arguing with a corpse?)

The Oscar-nominated African-American director, one of the most influential figures in contemporary cinema, said that black soldiers were conspicuous by their absence from Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Hundreds took part in the battle for the Japanese island in 1945.

Lee said: “There were many African-Americans who survived that war and who were upset at Clint for not having one [in the films]. That was his version: the negro soldier did not exist. I have a different version.”

He was speaking at a press conference in Cannes, where he gave the world premiere of an eight-minute trailer for his latest feature film, a war drama with which he hopes to set the record straight.

While refraining from using the word “racist”, Lee said that rewriting Second World War history was typical of Hollywood. The Dirty Dozen was among the few films that showed the contribution made by African-American soldiers, he said. White heroes played by John Wayne and other Hollywood stars had until now overshadowed the sacrifice of brave heroes of colour who laid down their lives for their country, he added.

“Here’s the paradox,” he said. “These African-American men wanted to fight against fascism in the name of democracy. At the same time, they were still second-class citizens.” Although Lee emphasised his respect for Eastwood as a film-maker, he claimed that the director had been told of the African-Americans who fought at Iwo Jima, and had chosen to ignore that “information”.

He said: “It’s not like he could say he didn’t know. It was a conscious decision not to have any black people.” Half an hour later, Eastwood was at the other end of La Croisette, giving his own press conference for his latest film, L’Échange (formerly The Changeling), the story of a woman, played by Angelina Jolie, who brought down a corrupt police department in 1920s Los Angeles.

Asked twice by The Times to respond to Lee’s criticism, Eastwood stared out into the audience as the compere refused to accept a question that did not relate to L’Échange. Later, his spokeswoman also declined to comment.

Miracle at St Anna, set in 1944, tells the story of four black Americans who find themselves trapped behind enemy lines and separated from their unit after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.

The film is based on the 2002 book by the bestselling African-American novelist James McBride. The village in the title, Sant’Anna di Stazzema, was the site of a massacre by SS troops who rounded up and slaughtered 560 civilians.

Lee’s film reflects the pain felt by the segregated black soldiers. One says in the film: “I love Italians. I ain’t a nigger here. I’m just me.” Lee added: “At the beginning of the war, black soldiers did not fight. They cooked, cleaned and drove trucks. That was all they were allowed to do. There was a theory that the black soldiers would run. That was proven false.” Miracle at St Anna was a testament to brave men who fought for the country they loved.

Wearing a T-shirt promoting Barack Obama, he also spoke of the significance of the United States having a black American president one day. His great-grandmother was born a slave and would never have believed it.

4 thoughts on “Spike Blasts Eastwood For Forgetting Black Soldiers in War Flicks…

  1. First let me say that the segregation of the military in WWII 9and in other wars) remains a blemish on the American effort to defeat fascism in WWII. it deserves a greater treatment in popular media and I look forward to spike’s movie. he is great filmaker.

    But his criticism of Clint here is simply wacky. Clint didnt write the story. The film Flags of our Fathers is based on and follows very closely the book (same title) written by the son of one of the six marines who was in the Iwo Jima photo. In the book the auhtor tells the story of how he didnt know his father’s connection to the photo until after his death he was going through boxes of his Dad’s stuff and found some material related to the famous photo. he then tracks down the family stories of the men who were in the picture and one who should have been but wasnt and how the war, the phot and the government’s use of the phot to sell war bonds had on their lives. One of the more central characters is An American Indian. Hardly the all white version of history Spike accuses Clint of writing. I dont recall any afirican americans as characters in the book. My sense is that if there had been african Americans in the units that reached Mt Suribachi that day the phot was taken they would hav been in the book and the film. I am also sure that whether there were any black soldiers (or more likely black units) involved in the initial assualt on IJ and Mt suirbachi one can verify that on the net. I think Spike is off base here.

    Second, the other movie “Letters” is about the Japanese. its all told from the Japanes POV. did Spike ven see the film?? If he did I dont think he would have said what he said.

    The history of segreation in the US armed forces in WWI must be told. But should it be told by inserting african american chacaters into films striving for a histroically accurate depiction of events? I don’t think so.

    frankly spike could have made his point without accusing CE of exclduing the story of black soldiers by simply pointing out the lack of serious films addressing the segregation of the armed forces. That is a valid point and Im glad he is making this movie. But it was beyond the pale to call out CE and FOF and Letters.

  2. And no…. I don’t blame Clint for not responding to the questions. They were non-sequiturs during a time when the blitz was to be on his new movie.
    PERHAPS if the two can quit scuffling, they can sit down someday and talk. But Spike had better put a better foot forward. Eastwood IS an old man. Spike would lose out big time if he never got to talk and meet with this great filmmaker.

  3. Yes, it would have been preferable if blacks had been shown among the troops in the movie about Iwo Jima. However, for whatever reasons, they didn’t. I don’t know why, and neither does Spike. So be it. What it did do, however, was open up a perspective about the Japanese and show a range of their humanity –which has never been shown until this point in American cinema. This isn’t to say that the Japanese perspective or role was more important than the blacks who served that day, it’s just saying that in this time frame of a 2 hour movie, this was the focus. May Spike Lee’s movie be good –if it isn’t, he too will be have his sour oats.

  4. Of the 70,000 soldiers on the island that first day, 900 of them were black. This means that 1 out of every 1000 people were black. Statisticly, Clint ole’boy was correct in his portrayel. yes, I know that the refusal to use black troops was common. Yes I think they were closed minded in the 40’s. Bottom line, though, should we really put people in a movie that is attempting to be historicaly accurate just BECAUSE of their race?

    Revisionism – it’s a bad thing.

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