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Flags of our Fathers misses black soldiers

FlagsofourFathers.jpgThe story itself is nothing new, the upcoming film Flags of our Fathers fails to feature a single African-American American in the Iwo Jima attacks, and yet veterans are appearing to reveal they played a major role in the fighting.

It's not a story that is limited to African-Americans, or any other American minority, it's the same story where Hollywood rewrites actual war battles and removes British and European forces from major battles. However this is more prominent because it becomes a race issue, not just a history rewrite.

From Guardian Film come a few tales of the involvement they had in the battles, and one in particular that shows the leading role they took.

"Our last involvement was when we turned back a banzai attack ... the last battle on Iwo Jima. There were army people there who had come after us to repair the airfield who were living in tents ... they came out of their holes with their swords drawn, high-hollering 'Banzai!' The Japanese cut the guy ropes and they were running them through the canvas with their swords. When they came through our area, we were still sleeping in the dirt. We cut them down. It was the black soldiers that did it. It's never been recognised."

There are other tales of African-Americans chasing ammunation dropped from planes as the enemy fired upon them, or even of the man who handed over a piece of pipe for the first flag to be raised with. These aren't tales that are hidden in the background.

Yvonne Latty is a New York University professor who wrote We Were There: Voices of African-American Veterans and she wrote to the film's producers asking that they include the experience of black soldiers.

"It would take only a couple of extras and everyone would be happy," she said. "No one's asking for them to be the stars of the movies, but at least show that they were there. This is the way a new generation will think about Iwo Jima. Once again it will be that African-American people did not serve, that we were absent. It's a lie."

This has been my concern for a long time about how Hollywood portrays actual historical events and rewrites them, often excluding soldiers and even armies, or rewriting the events and showing them in a close to fictional way. This moving of history seeps into generations memories and has already been shown to affect their recollections of history.

The whole article is worth a read, and it raises the question why weren't they shown? Warner Brothers claims that the film is directly adapted from the book and lays blame at their door, they just adapted the book directly. However it's not hard to research that there were over nine hundred African-American soldiers at that battle.

Is there really an issue here? Should we be concerned about the historical rewriting of history (see previous Filmstalker feature), and is this any different than Europeans being excluded from war films which feature all Americans when there were none involved, or miss out the efforts of any other country's soldiers? What's the issue anyway, after all the inclusion of some extra's would have resolved the issue wouldn't it?





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Comments

I said more than once my opinion on "historical accuracy", so any comment about that specifically, I leave for others.

I am a little worried by the mixed reviews the movie is receiving. My expectations are still very high, though.

I think the way the professor put it was extremely reasonable …

"It would take only a couple of extras and everyone would be happy," she said. "No one's asking for them to be the stars of the movies, but at least show that they were there. This is the way a new generation will think about Iwo Jima. Once again it will be that African-American people did not serve, that we were absent. It's a lie."

It seems very reasonable to me. I can't see that having a few African American soldiers in the background would have made any difference to the story, but would have made a great difference to the way many people, for whom this will be their first exposure to the historical event all be it in a fictional form view it. I do think that if you constantly write a people or nation out of the picture it does have an effect on the perceptions of the general public. It’s pretty common to hear people in the UK talk about immigrants in a country they fought for who contributed nothing, but along with the ANZACS who at least do get the odd mention, thousands of West Indians and people from the Indian Sub Continent and other British Colonies like Hong Kong fought and died to keep northern Europe and the UK free. I don't think it's asking too much to stick a few people with different ethnicities and accents (In the case of the ANZAC's) in the background of a war movie, just as nod of thanks to people who died for our nation and have been largely written out of history. No one says it has to be 100% acute, it is a fiction, but if it helps give a more accurate portrate, without affecting the enjoyment factor of the film why not do it?

Richard says, "Warner Brothers claims that the film is directly adapted from the book and lays blame at their door, they just adapted the book directly".

This is a very daft response coming from Warner Bros. How many staff worked on this project that not even one of them thought, "hey guys, what about the black soldiers, shouldnt we at least put several of them in there so we look good and everybody's happy?"

As always, it's in the end you realise such a small oversight which will only cause an outrage from the African-American community and I dont blame them if they will.

Well said bullet, whole heartedly agree.

I guess we have to realise that it most likely wasn't deliberate and as Simone says, a terrible oversight.

We should also remember the good that's coming out of the film already, the viewpoint of the Japanese who fought and lost their lives there, and the great respect that's been shown those that died there by the careful location usage and the substitution of Iceland for many of the scenes.

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