Spike Lee offers blood, hope in World War Two film

Sun Sep 7, 2008 3:48pm EDT
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By Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - Filmmaker Spike Lee was focusing on the past when he made a movie about oft-forgotten the role of black soldiers in World War Two, a war film with both blood and schmaltz set in Tuscany.

But the way the United States has changed since then makes the movie relevant for the present too, said Lee, who proudly sported an Obama T-shirt as he introduced "Miracle at St Anna" to the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

The movie, filmed mostly in Italy, and partly funded there, tells the story of four members of the all-black 92nd Division Buffalo Soldiers who are stranded behind enemy lines during the U.S. army's push up the Italian peninsula.

At times violent, at times touching and at times pure saccharine, the film highlights both the camaraderie of the four soldiers and the tensions between them, and the ugly racism that they faced at home and from their white commanders.

While Lee has focused on race in a string of movies from "Do the Right Thing" up to "Inside Man," and "When the Levees Broke," he insists America has moved well away from the racism in this latest film, where his soldier heroes are sent to the back door of a Louisiana bar while Nazi prisoners of war guzzle ice cream sundaes inside.

"There has been a seismic movement in this country," Lee told Reuters, noting that even a few years ago, Barack Obama could not have won the Democratic nomination for president.

"I'm trying to change the world for the better, and entertain at the same time."

CLINT AND SPIKE, "ARE COOL"   Continued...

<p>Director Spike Lee attends the "Miracle at St. Anna" news conference at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, September 7, 2008. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>