Feature

How Spike Lee offended the Italians

In his latest film, <em>Miracle at St. Anna,</em> Lee&rsquo;s pursuit of justice for African-American soldiers led him to do injustice to the Italian resistance, said Franz Haas in the<strong> </strong><em>Neue

Franz Haas
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)

This time, Spike Lee “didn’t do the right thing,” said Franz Haas. In his latest film, Miracle at St. Anna, Lee’s pursuit of justice for African-American soldiers led him to do injustice to the Italian resistance—“so say the bitter Italian veterans of World War II.” The film, released in Italy this month, deals with the August 1944 massacre by the SS of 560 civilians in Tuscany, a true event that, in Lee’s version, happened because of a betrayal by a resistance fighter, “which was not the case in historical fact.” Former partisans and others have been furiously denouncing Lee for “revisionism” and “grossly insulting the resistance.” Lee himself apologized in the pages of Rome’s La Repubblica for “disturbing a wound that had evidently not yet healed.” How right he was. His film could not have come at a worse time. For the past few months, far-right politicians in Italy have been pushing for recognition of the “patriotic honor” of the “good lads” who fought for Mussolini against the Allied invaders and the left-wing partisans. “In such a climate of far-right nostalgia, a small dramatic license on the part of a director was enough to unleash a storm of fury from the left.” Perhaps for his next film, Lee will stick with what he knows. He is at his best when chronicling the evil effects of racism—not when venturing into Italian history.

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