Spike Lee announced plans Tuesday to make a movie about the struggle against Nazi occupiers in Italy during World War II that he hopes will highlight the contribution of black American soldiers who fought and died to liberate Europe.
The film will spotlight the courage of black soldiers who, despite suffering discrimination back home, offered a contribution that has so far gone largely unnoticed in other Hollywood movies, Lee said.
“We have black people who are fighting for democracy who at the same time are classified as second-class citizens,” the 50-year-old filmmaker said. “That is why I’d like to do a film to show how these brave black men, despite all the hardship they were going through, still pushed that aside and fought for the greater good.”
Based on the novel “Miracle at St. Anna” by James McBride, the movie will tell the story of four black American soldiers, all members of the Army’s all-black 92nd “Buffalo Soldier” Division, who are trapped behind enemy lines in an Italian village in Tuscany in 1944.
Filming is planned in Tuscany, Rome and the United States, Lee said.
Shooting is expected to start by the beginning of 2008, said producer Roberto Cicutto.
Cicutto said the movie will cost $45 million.
“This is a wonderful story and what makes it even more wonderful is that it is based upon true incidents,” Lee said. “If you look at the history of Hollywood, the black soldiers who fought World War II are invisible.”
The film will also look at the relationship between the soldiers and the villagers, some of whom are partisans.
“We had good relationships with the Italian people, they gave us a lot of information,” recalled 82-year-old William Perry who, at 19, was an infantry soldier in the Buffalo Division.
“I’m not a hero, the heroes are those buried in the American cemetery in Florence. I hope this movie will put a positive spin on some of our activities here,” Perry said.