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Miracle at St. Anna

Gail Choice | 9/24/2008, 5 p.m.

Every now and then an epic film comes along that sheds new light on American and World history, "Miracle at St. Anna" is one such film.
As black Americans, too many of us know too little history about who we are as a people. While in school we study history written from the mainstream perspective, and leave it up to dedicated brothers and sisters to do whatever they can to bring history from the black/African American perspective to light. With "Miracle at St. Anna" Spike Lee has done this and much more.
James McBride wrote a novel about four black soldiers caught behind enemy lines in Tuscany, Italy during World War II. Spike Lee read the book and knew he wanted to make a film based on the book thus, movie magic began.
Lee says, "I became a student of World War II, a student of the Buffalo soldiers, in particular the 92nd infantry division."
"James introduced me to several of the surviving Buffalo soldiers whom he met and interviewed for the novel." Lee continues, "they saw things that you would not want anybody to see-the horrors of war: moments that they still think about, still dream about, still wake up in a sweat about."
McBride who never wrote a screenplay worked with Lee to shape his acclaimed novel into a powerful and compelling screenplay. McBride says he wrote the script 15 pages at a time, going over every detail with Lee until the script was completed.
"It's a World War II film-brutal and gruesome-a mystery that deals with historic events and the stark reality of war," says Director/Producer Spike Lee. "But it's also a story of compassion and love. There's a very lyrical, magical, mystical element to it."
"Miracle at St. Anna" stars Derek Luke ("Antwone Fisher," "Glory Road"), Michael Ealy ("Their Eyes Were Watching God"), Laz Alonso ("This Christmas"), and Omar Benson Miller ("The Express), four soldiers, like many other black men and women during World War II who were fighting for the freedom of others, without fully realizing freedom in their own country. And like other black soldiers, they were fighting bravely, and with the notion that they were representing black Americans at home.
An act of kindness, the sheltering of a young boy, led them to a small Italian village and right into the center of a German infantry outpost. What happens in that village; the miracles, mysteries, treacheries, compassion and more, shaped one man's future, and in the present day caused him to commit cold-blooded murder. And so the unraveling of the mystery begins.
Lee calls his film an ensemble piece because of his culturally diverse cast, all speaking in their own language. He believes it makes the film more authentic rather than everyone speaking English, thereby giving more power to the idea that language is not always a barrier to human understanding.
It's refreshing to see a World War II film from the heart and spirit of a black director, especially Spike Lee because you know he's not a history 'sellout' and he will tell you like it is no matter how painful. This film is all about the power of love, respect and human kindness in the midst of a very dark period in American and World history.
"Miracle at St. Anna" is in theaters Friday. Be prepared for a magnificent film.
- Gail Choice is a writer/producer/director. Contact info: gailchoice@strictlyhollywood.com.