07 June 2008
  taking sides: clint eastwood v spike lee

point: at cannes last week, spike lee criticized clint eastwood for doing a disservice to black wwii vets, by not featuring them in either of his recent historical films flags of our fathers or letters from iwo jima. according to lee, black soldiers did indeed fight at iwo jima (and in other important battles), a fact he is apparently illustrating in his upcoming film miracle at st. anna.

counterpoint: eastwood responded, quite eloquently, that lee "should shut his face." he argues that it would have been inappropriate for him to have focused on black soldiers in either of his films. flags of our fathers focuses on the lives of several specific soldiers who raised the flag on iwo jima (all white) and letters from iwo jima, of course, focuses on the japanese.

rebuttal: lee responded, also eloquently, by calling eastwood "an angry old man." he offers to set up a meeting between eastwood and black soldiers who fought at iwo jima, so that the director can tell them that their contributions were meaningless.

no doubt, clint eastwood is a bit cantankerous, but spike lee is the one who picked this fight, and then he criticizes "the angry old man" for taking it personally. it sounds like both of these guys need to simmer down. but, more importantly, lee needs to take a few steps back from this and realize that he is taking his deep-seeded (albeit rightful) frustration regarding the removal of black history from the textbooks, and he is focusing this resentment in the wrong direction. if eastwood had somehow worked a storyline about african american soldiers into either of his movies, not only would it have been inappropriate, but he would have been attacked for dumbing down his work in favor of political correctness.

both eastwood and lee are great filmmakers, and letters from iwo jima is really an excellent movie. i am sure miracle at st. anna will be too. but come on spike, do you honestly think that clint eastwood believes that the contributions of black soldiers are insignificant? i totally support your anger and frustration at this situation, but express this through your work rather than taking it out on your colleagues.
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