'The Liberator': World War II was more diverse than we've been told
Netflix just released a hyper-realistic animated series where the main characters are Mexican-American, Native American, and African-American soldiers. A move against Hollywood's cliches.
About 500,000 Latino soldiers, mainly Mexican Americans and some 25,000 Native Americans fought in World War II. However, we know very little about these heroes that faced Nazism and who, when they arrived home as veterans, continued to face prejudice and discrimination, and an America that barely thanked them for risking their lives.
Now, a risky animated series released on Netflix on Veterans Day sheds light on the enormous diversity of soldiers who fought in Europe, but are rarely represented in Hollywood productions.
Based on the eponymous title novel The Liberator by World War II expert writer and journalist Alex Kershaw, this four-part animated series tells the true story of a young man from Arizona, Felix "Shotgun" Sparks, who fought in Europe and reached the gates of Dachau, and the soldiers who were part of his Regiment, the 157th.
Both in Kershaw's book and in the series, Sparks appears as a young man. After being born in Arizona and reporting for duty at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1941, he witnesses the discriminatory treatment of Chicanos and Native Americans who could not even have a drink during their training because they were denied entry into nearby bars.
This was explained by a veteran of the Sparks' regiment, Guy Prestia, who trained in Virginia and Georgia:
"I saw all kinds of discrimination in our own country during basic training. In the South, those people were still fighting in the Civil War," said Presta
However, as military history professor David Silbey explained to NBC's Arturo Conde, fighting in World War II was a turning point for Americans because not only did women get out of their domestic lives and prove they could work in industry and run the country without the help of men, but also having fought for their country, Mexican Americans, Blacks and Native Americans felt the way America treated them was not worthy of their sacrifice. It was a seed for them to claim better jobs and education, and a part of the dream they earned at the risk of losing their lives.
"They were very proud of their history and their ethnicity," Kershaw said. "Many, like Blacks, were fighting for what they called the 'Double V': victory over racism abroad and victory over racism at home.
The Liberator did not have an easy road becoming a series, and there were moments when it almost did not see the light. Although since the publication of the book all critics agree that the vivid war scenes masterfully written by Kershaw should be taken to the movies.
The main difficulty was not to turn a book full of anecdotes into a two-hour movie or a mini-series, as it finally happened, but to juggle the budget in order to shoot in Europe.
Although the production company, Unique Features, bought the rights to shoot it and commissioned a script to the best action screenwriters, the History Channel kept delaying the sensational production time until someone came up with a way to reduce cost and turn what was going to be a realistic series, into a hyper-realistic Waltz with Bashir-style animation series (Ari Folman, 2008).
That didn't quite fit with the seriousness and usual format of the History Channel, so it was Netflix that took over the project.
Now, the result of the union of Trioscope's hybrid technology with a brilliant and true story can be seen on your screens.
A question now arises: Are realistic animation productions like The Liberator the future of action series?