Miracle at St Anna
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DESCRIPTION: From award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee comes Miracle At St. Anna, the story of four black American soldiers who are members of the US Army as part of the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier division stationed in Tuscany, Italy during WWII. They experience the tragedy and triumph of war as they find themselves trapped behind enemy lines and separated from their unit after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy. Praised as The best war movie since Saving Private Ryan (Pat Collins, WWOR TV) and One of the year s best (Ben Lyons, E!), and filled with epic battle sequences and action, the film explore deeply inspiring, powerful story drawn from true history, that transcends national boundaries, race and class to touch the goodness within us all. Now even more revealing with exclusive Blu-ray bonus features that bring you even deeper into the world of these unsung heroes
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But we see two major errors in the negative reviews. So let's deal with them.
1) "all the white people are racist"
This is so wrong it's amazing that anyone could claim it. The entire film revolves around the caring, even loving, relationships between white and black characters. Yes, there are some white racists. It's the 1940s.
But let's go group by group.
US Military Officers: we have roughly 3.
First, there is the idiot racist junior officer who is immediately in charge of the main characters. He's the kind of man who refuses to believe what the troops on the ground say because they don't fit his mental understanding of what "has to be the truth". He also refuses to let there be any response to his orders. Yes, he's white and he's doing this to black troops. But this type of character exists in hundreds of war movies, and sends people to their deaths through their idiocy regardless of color, what war, what time in history.
Because these people exist, and untold thousands of men have died because of their mental defects.
Second, there is the brief appearance by a high-ranking officer who understands the situation and treats the black characters with respect. This character appears in countless films as well.
Third, the MPs in the flashback to basic training in Mississippi. They attempt to prevent the conflict between the black soldiers and white shop-owner from escalating to violence. Let's call them neutral.
Second, Nazis: we have a Nazi officer who commits atrocities and those who follow the orders to do so. We also have a Nazi officer and Nazi soldier who are critical to the miracle and subsequent acts. Saying too much would involve spoilers.
Third, Italian Partisans: again, good and bad, and the difference is critical to the film.
Fourth, Italian Civilians: the central relationship of the movie is one between a black soldier and a white civilian. Most of the rest of the Italians show nothing but positivity (or more) to the black soldiers. Again, there is a special, critical link between the black soldiers and the Italians that is very important but not going to spoil things.
Fifth, US Civilians: There are those in the basic training flashback, who are typical racists for the most part. It's Mississippi in the 1940s. Then there are those who appear in the "current" time of the initial event. They are eager to do their job and show no concern about color. We even have a black woman put a white man with authority in his place, and he takes it.
2) the "over-sexed Negro" stereotype.
Again, this is just wrong, and it is due to failure to consider the range of characters.
We have a group of young men in a new place. I can tell you with the utmost certainty that, regardless of color or anything else, a group of young men in a new place will include some who are looking for sexual relationships with new women. Many groups of men go to new places solely for this purpose. Many businesses and events exist primarily to facilitate the interaction of young men with women, and they make most of their money from the young men who are eager to pay for access to women.
Now such a group of young men will very often feature two types who come into conflict. There is the nice guy, who wants to win over the woman by showing her respect and being realistic about their situation. He will also usually try to maintain group cohesion to a considerable effort.
Then we have the young man who will make it his primary mission to get the woman. He will say whatever it takes, do whatever he can, to get her. He will push aside the nice guy. He will abandon the group. What he wants is the woman. It does not matter who the woman is. I have seen a friend gently stroking the arm of another friend's 60-something mother with a cast on her leg, in front of her husband, her brother, her son, and a bunch of his friends. When he left, we all looked around to say "Did you just see what I saw?" Yes, we did all see it.
When Mr Raging Hormones gets the woman, the nice guy is angry at him, especially if he was essentially knocked out of the way. The nice guy is often more angry or disgusted at the woman. Either she was too foolish to see through the sex-hound's blandishments, or she saw them and accepted them.
No "over-sexed Negro", just the dynamics of groups of young men with regard to women.
Now let's think about film-making and stereotypes. A film is short. Miracle at St Anna is 160 minutes and that's long. The more characters a film has, the less time there is to spend on each of them. It is impossible to give every secondary, tertiary, there-for-a-few-seconds, character a unique complex personality. The result is that some characters must serve as a function, as a role, not as true characters, as individuals. The result will be that some characters are stereotypes.
If this were an epic Band of Brothers type production, maybe we'd have fewer stereotypes. But even in Band of Brothers, David Schwimmer's idiot officer is the same person as the idiot officer in St Anna. He just got promoted out of combat duty. I'm sure we could go through the holy Saving Private Ryan and find a list of stereotypes as well. Did anyone think that Private Ryan, once found, would say "Great! Get me out of here!" instead of "No way, I will fulfill my duty."? No, that's not what the noble soldier does.
But even in an epic-length production, we must remember that there is truth to some stereotypes. How many of us can say that there is no aspect of ourselves that is stereotypical of something: our age, our occupation, our gender, our race, our physical appearance?
To get to the positive: This film is entirely about the complex relationships between black men and white men and women in a life-and-death situation in a foreign nation. The love between a black soldier and an Italian civilian is the central relationship in the film. The steps that a black man will take to avenge the evils done by white men motivate the telling of the tale.
Black men treat white people as having supernatural spiritual powers. White people treat black men in the same way. We are dealing with miracles, and with people who believe in them. There is more, but we will avoid spoilers.
But this film is ultimately about the care and love between black men and white men that transcends status and time.
And there is one scene that is so heartbreaking that it brings tears to my eyes whenever I remember it, and it is powerful enough that it comes to my mind unbidden often enough that I had to buy this film several years after first seeing it. The moment would not go away, and should not go away.
Those who see only stereotypes or nitpick at errors about what sayings or actions were in the film that were not common in the WW2 era are missing things that are so much more important that I feel sorry for them.
See and feel the relationships, and find the miracles. They are there.
After a lifetime spent reading military history and talking at length with WW II veterans, I believe that the US Army infantry divisions engaged in combat in WW II were manned by dedicated soldiers who served their country honorably and well, very much at the daily risk of their lives.I see no reason to modify this statement with regard to the black men who filled the ranks of the 92nd in Italy.
Unfortunately, the filmmaker saw fit to incorporate just about every possible cliche and inaccuracy he could think of into this film. In the first place, deciding to go strolling across a stream in broad daylight within arm's reach of each other, with defenders hidden on the other side invites disaster. One of the few things this film got right was the effectiveness of a German gun crew with an MG 42. Secondly, who in their right mind would carry around a sixty pound marble head of a statue suspended from a cartridge belt ? At a glance, a squad leader would have ordered this
thing discarded the moment he noticed it .Fans of this film should strap the head of a statue to their own belts and see just how far they get through their daily routines before they give up.
A German officer preventing his men from murdering a wounded enemy is one thing. How likely would he really be to hand him a loaded weapon and turn his back on him ? Then there's Renata, the source of much interest in this film. At some point she's outdoors doing laundry. During a conversation with one of the protagonists she abruptly removes her top and proceeds to finish her task half - naked. I'm sure this sort of thing happened often during the war....... As a matter of fact, a close relative of mine was in the Fifth Army in Italy from the landing at Salerno until the German surrender. Most of the women he described to me were barrel - shaped grandmothers who reeked of woodsmoke and olive oil.Of course this reality would not have created the impression the filmmaker sought. There is also the matter of high fives, vocabulary that wouldn't be heard for decades, weapons slung across the chest with the muzzles down, thirty shot Thompson Submachine guns firing sixty second bursts, the complete absence of Browning Automatic Rifles, etc. I could go on.
In the face of great adversity, a majority of the black Americans in the 92 Infantry Division served their country with distinction. The survivors deserved to see their story related realistically, and with respect. In this, I believe the filmmaker failed..
Judging by this film's commercial and critical reception, it appears that I have plenty of company.
Two stars for the location shooting in Italy.
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