01 Aug 2003 Mailbag Regarding Buffalo Soldiers
Mail about Project 21’s protest of the name of the Film “Buffalo Soldiers”:
To whom it may concern,
I just read Michael King’s comments on Townhall.org about the Congressional Black Caucus’ silence regarding the film “Buffalo Soldiers.” I could not agree more and I am actively protesting this film. I am ready to stand outside of every movie theater to prevent people from patronizing this film. Below is my own protest paper to this film. I have sent it to a range of people. It is my hope that we will make a difference.
When this film is nationally released, if anyone in your organization would like to stand with me, I will be more than willing.
Once Again, the Unsung Heroes are Forgotten
On Friday, July 25th, Miramax released a film in LA and NYC called “Buffalo Soldiers.” From all accounts, this film is a “black comedy” about soldiers at an Army base in Germany in the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The main character enlisted in the Army to avoid doing jail time and is running a black market business on the base, including heroin. Adapted from the Robert O’Connor book of the same title, this film is intended to be a satire of Army life. The soldiers in this film are often stoned, violent and unremorseful about their escapades. Jack Matthews of the Daily News writes, “the tone of Buffalo Soldiers is all over the place… more often sinister.” He also writes that “the underlying premise is that Army bases are a microcosm of the inner-city life, the expense-paid refuges of scoundrels.”
There are absolutely NO references in the film to the history of the real Buffalo Soldiers, black soldiers who fought for and protected the Western settlers after the Civil War. There are absolutely NO references in the film to the Buffalo badge of honor that WWI and WWII Black soldiers wore to symbolically link themselves to their heroic ancestors. There are absolutely NO references in the film to the fact that it was the Native Americans who authored the name “Buffalo Soldiers” because they revered the buffalo and respected the soldiers’ bravery and determination.
I had an email debate with one of the writers of this film. When I asked her if she had considered the true history of the Buffalo Soldiers and the attitudes of the African-American community when she wrote this film, she gave no reply. She used freedom of speech as her justification for dismissing a significant part of American history. And although the book by Robert O’Connor contains several references to the title, NONE of these references are included in this film.
My heart has been broken by this issue, particularly after hearing the reviews by Ebert and Roeper who also fail to mention the history of the original Buffalo Soldiers. I do applaud, however, Nancy Millar, a reviewer for JANE magazine who not only refuses to review the film, since it has nothing to do with the Buffalo Soldiers, but even goes on to reference, Cathay Williams, the only female Buffalo Soldier who disguised herself as a man so that she could fight.
In 2003, the African-American experience is still forgotten. Worse yet, it has been appropriated by an author and filmmakers for their own gain without any regard for the impact on the African-American community. The irony from this is that the film’s release had been originally scheduled for September 11, 2001, but was delayed because of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The film release was later delayed because of the subsequent wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
I IMPLORE you to take a stand. Artistic expression cannot justify the vilification of the honorable memory of these soldiers. This film has not yet been released nationwide. You can make a difference. You can email directly one of the writers named below with your viewpoints or contact Miramax with your views. You can forward this letter to your friends, family, and colleagues making them aware of this issue. Also, distribute it at churches, stores, and even movie theaters. But most importantly, DO NOT PATRONIZE THIS FILM. It is an insult to our soldiers of the past and our soldiers of the present.
Thank you for your support.
Granddaughter of a REAL Buffalo Soldier
Nora Maccoby, screenwriter on Buffalo Soldiers