The multi-awarded documentary, defined as "a patchwork of stories that history almost forgot to tell", has been shot both in Italy and in the USA . It recounts the story of the 92nd African-American infantry division which consisted in 15.000 soldiers who served in Italy during World War II, but that found that their contributions went unnoticed upon their return to the United States.
Nicknamed "Buffalo Soldiers" after the name given by American Indians to the black members of the US Cavalry who fought Indians in the American West, they represent to the eyes of the Italian-African filmmaker Fred Kudjo Kuwornu an occasion to explore his own heritage and the history of Afro-American forces in Italy.
The documentary is divided into three different periods (before, during, and after World War II until contemporary days) and focuses on the segregation of the Buffalo Soldiers in the army, their friendship with Italians, and the prejudices they were victims of when they went back to their home country.
Their destiny, as Director Kuwornu shows the audience, is completely different from the one they were promised when they first joined the army to go to war. The "Double V" promise, in fact, had convinced them to risk their life for their country in the name of two Victories, one against Nazi-Fascism abroad, the other against prejudice at home. They found themselves fighting in one of the most difficult scenarios of the war, the Gothic Line, formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence in the final stages of WWII along the summits of the Appenines during the fighting retreat of Nazi Germany's forces against the Allied Armies commanded by General Clark.
They fought restlessly, despite of the fact that the training they had received in Arizona was not sufficient to combat on high mountains during the coldest Italian winter of the 40s. Discriminated by their fellow soldiers behind the lines, they found the friendship and support of the Italian Partisan forces who had become highly active and effective in disrupting German actions on the high mountains.
The story moves on to their return back home, where they still found prejudice among their fellow Americans, where they still had another battle to fight. Their story has been almost forgotten both in Italy and the US, but Director Kuwornu decided to bring it back to life when he met his friend and colleague Spike Lee in Tuscany just two year ago. At that time the latter was working on his "Miracle at St' Anna"" and inspired him to start this very personal voyage of discovery in Italian contemporary history.
A narrator carries the program forward; historical photographs, documents and re-enactment footage illustrate the unique contributions of these men. These elements are complemented by interviews with contemporary African-American soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen who served in World War II.
One of the peculiarities of this already multi-awarded movie is the participation of Congressional Medal of Honor in WWII Vernon Baker who recounts vividly his war-time experiences and the heroism showed by his unit of Buffalo Soldiers. Additionally to the appearance of former President Bill Clinton, director Kuwornu includes in his movie also the first African-American President of the history of the United States, Barack Obama
Still alive Former US Senator Edward Brooke, awarded last October by the President Barack Obama with the Congressional Gold Medal, olympic champion Harrison Dillard were members of the 92nd Division. Other distinguished figures who served in the 92nd Division were: heavy-weight champion Joe Louis, actor Roscoe Lee Browne and Congressman Parren J. Mitchell, the first African American elected to the U.S. Congress from Maryland.
Kuwornu was inspired to begin researching the 92nd Division during a meeting with Spike Lee, while Lee was filming, "Miracle at St. Anna" in Tuscany, Italy, in 2008. Included in the documentary are first-hand accounts of conflicts and war-time experiences by original members of the Buffalo Soldiers.
Buffalo Division veteran Joseph Stephenson and Medal of Honor winner Vernon Baker were featured and told their stories of their respective units.
"In 1940, the military had limited how many blacks could be in the Army. The recruiter gave me a list of all the black units in the Army and I promptly sent them all letters. All of them replied there were no vacancies," Stephenson said. "The last unit I wrote to told me about a unit I didn't have on my list, so I wrote to them. They had one vacancy and I went up for an interview and that's how I got into the Army."
"I never went to basic training," Stephenson said.
Stephenson noted the racism he received at that time was very prominent.
"Soldiers would see me in the street and salute me and would say 'I am saluting the uniform, not the man' and that was how the culture was back then," Stephenson said.
Stephenson closed by telling the crowd what the movie meant to him.
"The horror depicted in this film says to me 'never again' and that is true, because, think about what the movie shows and what it's like now," Stephenson said. "In the early 1960s, my neighbor was a black lieutenant colonel and that same man is now a retired three-star general. That is a change.
"Colin Powell was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and now, in this past presidential election, 57 million Americans voted for a black president," Stephenson said. "We are now more apt to judge a person by their character and not by their color. There is great hope and I look to the future and not the past."