Controversial and often outspoken American film director Spike Lee who has been regularly upsetting people in America is now upsetting people internationally. His latest film, “Miracle at St. Anna,” about black American soldiers fighting alongside Italian partisans in World War Two has set off a storm among surviving members of the resistance to the Nazi occupation of Italy.

Prior to its Italian release on Friday, surviving members have been distributing protest flyers and accusing Lee of distorting history. Ironically enough, Lee himself has said that he wanted to set the record straight regarding the role played by black U.S. soldiers in the war.

The controversy stems around how the film depicts the infamous 1944 massacre in the Tuscan town of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, where 560 civilians were murdered by Nazi soldiers.

According to Lee’s film, the massacre occurred as a direct response to the actions of resistance fighters and the specific betrayal of one fighter who conspired with the Nazis – a version of events that has angered surviving partisans.

When questioned about the criticisms, Lee responded:

“I would not allow anybody to tell me how to make a film, be it a partisan or the president of the United States,” Lee told a news conference in Florence on Wednesday after a preview screening, according to Italian media… This simply shows that in Italy the wound is still open.”

It is up to Italians to come to grips with their past, not up to me or James McBride or the film.

Members from the ANPI association of resistance fighters disagree, arguing that:

“Before shooting his film, the director should have read the truth about that horrible slaughter.”

Miracle at St. Anna is an adaptation of a novel by James McBride, focusing on the all-black 92nd Buffalo Division which helped liberate Italy in 1944-45. Miracle at St. Anna is currently now playing in theatres.

Source: Reuters, Time