Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Italian Partisans to Protest Spike Lee's World War II Film

ROME (AFP) — Italian veteran partisans offended by US director Spike Lee's World War II film "Miracle at St. Anna" planned a protest Wednesday at an advance screening in central Italy, media reports said. They plan to stage a sit-in in Viareggio, a town on the Tuscan coast near the village of Stazzema, where retreating German soldiers massacred 560 civilians in 1944, the reports said.

The film, which is set for general release in Italy on Friday, shows a member of the resistance collaborating with the Nazis and failing to warn the villagers of the Germans' advance.

A dozen of the anti-Fascist partisans who were present during the massacre and about 50 survivors contest this version, according to the Italian daily La Stampa.

"It is an erroneous version," said writer Giorgio Bocca, a veteran partisan, wrote in an editorial in Wednesday's La Repubblica, a left-leaning daily.

At a press screening on Tuesday, Lee said he was "not apologising" and that he had "not invented anything" in the film version of a book of the same name by James McBride which also highlights the role of black American soldiers in the war.

"This film is no clear picture of what happened. It is our interpretation, and I stand behind it," Lee said, suggesting to Italians that there was "a lot about your history you have yet to come to grips with."

McBride was more contrite, saying: "I am very sorry if I have offended the partisans. I have enormous respect for them. As a black American, I understand what it's like for someone to tell your history, and they are not you." He added: "Unfortunately, the history of World War II here in Italy is ours as well, and this was the best I could do," stressing: "It is, after all, a work of fiction."

Organisers of the Rome Film Festival opening on October 22 told a news conference on Wednesday that they had requested a copy of the film but were told it was promised for last month's Toronto event.