Clint Eastwood – Spike Lee : Racism, Omission or Fact

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By the look of things, Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee are no where near conceding to each other as to whose “historical accuracy” is factual.

It all started when Lee criticised Eastwood, May 20 during the Cannes film festival, for the non representation of black people in his recent movies “Flags Of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”. According to Spike Lee the film did not show black people their due respect in history. Period. “Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen”.

Elaborating on the same issue, Lee insisted that Eastwood had overlooked the involvement of blackmen in World War II (WWII). “Many veterans, African-Americans, who survived that war are upset at Clint Eastwood. In his vision of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist. Simple as that. I have a different version”.

So was this a deliberate attempt to erase black people from such an important historical documentary?

In an interview with the guradian, Clint Eastwood, who is soon to make a movie about Nelson Mandela said “’I’m not going to make Nelson Mandela a white guy” further asking Spike Lee to “shut his face” before he delved into a soliloquy ; “The story is ‘Flags of Our Fathers,’ the famous flag-raising picture, and they [black people] didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people go ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate.”

But though Clint Eastwood might have a point about the flag raising picture, how accurate is he about the non existence of blacks in Iwo Jima ? And would he have people believe that the American film industry has pledged on its honour to chose substance over “snow white” fables ? Or is this point just just another historically white Hollywoodian intellectualisation ?

Spike Lee, who has equally launched a war movie “Miracle at St Anna” featuring African Americans in Italy during WWII, riposted by first correcting Clint Eastwood on his use of unacceptable language [shut your face]. Lee, also a former history student, said he could assemble African Americans who fought at Iwo Jima for Eastwood to explain to them why their contribution in the war was that “insignificant” and why to him they simply didn’t “exist”.

About historical accuracy, it would seem that both Lee and Eastwood are right. One is about factual history while the other is about Hollywood history.

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