Spike Lee’s 2008 Miracle at St. Anna is a great fix for Italophiles, history buffs, for those of you who like a good war movie, and for those of us who love a chance to see Italian actors. Though the movie didn’t do well at the box office, critics didn’t much like it, and Italian protesters were at the film’s premiere, there is never-the-less much to admire about the 2008 film.Miracle at St. Anna is essentially a true story of a real life wartime atrocity.
Hector Negron, a World War II veteran is working as a post office clerk in New York City and recognizes a man who comes to his window to buy stamps. Without a minute of hesitation, Negron kills the man by shooting him with a German Luger pistol.
To understand why this seemingly random customer sets him off, there are flashbacks of the war and Negron’s service in Italy, specifically a disastrous encounter with the Germans in a little town in Tuscany. Negron and a few other soldiers from the famous “Buffalo Soldier” Unit, a unit made up for the most part of men of color found themselves surrounded by the enemy and looking for a way out. Aided by Italian Partisans, the soldiers attempt to carry out the orders of their white commanders, but an Italian traitor is among them bringing tragedy for everyone involved.
Italian protesters objected to the plotline of Italian partisans collaborating with the Nazis because this is not the accepted historical version that is taught to Italian school children. Tradition says that the Germans murdered innocent Italian citizens with no reason except the aim to frighten the population. Spike Lee refused to back down, saying, “I am not apologizing.” He told Italians there was “a lot about your history you have yet to come to grips with. This film is our interpretation, and I stand behind it.”
I love that Lee used Italian actors and lots of Italian dialogue. Pierfrancesco Favino is, as usual, wonderful, and Luigi Lo Cascio’s last scene is the best in the whole movie.