“never above you, never below you, always beside you”
In the remote corners surrounded by oceans of water and sand lives a people left voiceless by the sheer distance of geography and politics. An island remote and a desert illuminated by fire, bridge by waiting families in fear that the children they let go will only return in boxes.
Island Soldier tells the untold story of a Micronesian community in Kosrae and serving in their sacrificial offer of children to the American war efforts abroad; while, at home, struggling to sustain a semblance of living without the medical benefits from Veteran Affairs and the looming year (2023) when the United States is slated to cut its funding for this impoverished island in the Pacific. Fitch tells their story through the lens of a few chosen men and the impact their life and death has on the community: a sobering tale of memory and sacrifice that paints a moving international story of today’s globalized reality.
And while I appreciate the narrative and the sacrifices of the individual members of the film, the documentary itself is more information, than impactful art. Having seen Strong Island and the creative output that Yance Ford displayed, the documentary from Fitch was tiresome and uninspiring. While the weaving of the past, present, and future was effective, the ideas conveyed lost me in the mundane unfolding of events that spoke more about the available footage, than about a creative vision that Fitch aimed to display. For me, the biggest failure was the ineffective sound mixing that only showed promise towards the end—dragging the story along without the words or audio that is needed to captivate an estranged audience.
What Strong Island did with a thin, comparable storyline, was paint the poetics of its plight in the context of a wider movement. While Island Soldier may have tried to do the same, I felt that Fitch had left us all on shore without the adequacy of storytelling.
For more on the film and ways you can contribute, go here.