This post published on January 15, 2008
Showing January 30th, 2008
Breaking Ranks is a moving documentary about the plight of four U.S. soldiers seeking sanctuary in Canada as part of their resistance to the war in Iraq. The film documents their experiences as they try to exercise their consciences amidst profound emotional, ethical and international consequences. Filmed over the course of the refugee process, this provocative film explores the meaning of duty through the powerful testimonies of these young soldiers.
“The film is brilliant. I was a Bush-loving, war-supporting conservative until your film, and tonight it has made me think again about my views.” — Carol Gould, London, UK
7pm, Wednesday January 30th
(In collaboration with The Power of Hope)
David Lamm Auditorium,
$5-10 Suggested donation
NO RESERVATIONS for this screening
About this documentary:
Breaking Ranks is a moving documentary that examines the current phenomena of US soldiers seeking refuge in Canada as part of their resistance to the war effort in Iraq.
With intimate access to four American military deserters, their lawyer and families, this film documents their experiences as they try to exercise their consciences amidst profound emotional, ethical and international consequences. If deported, they face the venom of mainstream American opinion and one to five years in prison. If Canada instead follows the legacy established by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during the Vietnam War, when Canada welcomed tens of thousands of war resisters, there may well be an unprecedented crisis in U.S.-Canadian relations. Filmed over the course of the refugee process, this provocative film explores the meaning of duty through the powerful testimonies of these young soldiers. In so doing, Breaking Ranks poses challenging political, cultural and historical questions for Canadians and the world.
Sharing stories of moral awakening and the burden that it brings, the emotional core of Breaking Ranks is formed by candid interviews with these four young men as they take us on their journeys from the moment of recruitment to the momentous decision to desert.
Directed by Michelle Mason, an award-winning filmmaker whose first film, The Friendship Village, was an inspiring account of reconciliation between American and Vietnamese veterans, Breaking Ranks reveals the everyday lives, hopes, and idealism of another generation of young soldiers as they become controversial peace activists.
Breaking Ranks is a universal story about the painful forming of character, of men growing to manhood in more complex ways than they expected. Heroes to some and traitors to others, as these young men navigate the international controversy caused by their decisions, their stories raise challenging questions about citizenship and the meaning of duty.
BREAKING RANKS (2006)
A Screen Siren Pictures Production in Co-Production with the National Film Board of Canada for Global Television.
Post-Screening Commentary on Breaking Ranks
The screening of Breaking Ranks was followed by discussion with filmmaker Michelle Mason, Valerie Lannon (WRSC), and war resister Brad McCall. To start off the evening, Lisa Nielsen talked about Citizenshift, a website initiative of the National Film Board of Canada that houses thought-provoking media, which she described as “kind of like YouTube but with a social conscience.” Lisa then showed a brief clip from the website, The Supreme International Crime.
Carrie Moffatt writes:
I remember watching news stories about American soldiers deserting the war in Iraq and wanting to seek sanctuary in Canada. To be honest, I didn’t really have a huge amount of sympathy for them, as I figured there were real refugees coming from more desperate places and situations who needed our sanctuary before these people, who come from the wealthiest country in the world and voluntarily signed up to fight. So I was curious to find out—who are these guys anyway? Needless to say, Breaking Ranks changed my perspective.
We learn in the film that although soldiers do sign up for the army, it’s not so simple. The U.S. military recruiting machine is a powerful industry—one recruiter compares their business practices and recruiting strategies to WalMart. Recruiters target small communities, high schools, towns where options are limited, jobs hard to come by. Many young men and women see this as their only way to get a college education, decent income and health benefits. It’s known as the ‘poverty draft’.
I was disturbed by how disturbed the soldiers were with what they witnessed and had to do while serving in Iraq. The four men profiled in the film were angry, insightful and candid about their choice to refuse to partake in what they see as an illegal, unnecessary and brutal war.
Many of these soldiers arrive with their partners and children, have no contacts in Canada, no job, and no way of knowing if they’ll be allowed to stay. Brad McCall, panellist at the screening, was in that boat when he arrived in Vancouver after deciding that he could not morally participate in the war. As director and filmmaker Michelle Mason pointed out, war ends with these individual acts of courage, such as Brad’s, and those profiled in the film.
Canada rejected the U.S. soldiers’ request for refugee status at the Supreme Court level. Currently, Americans who come to Canada to avoid or escape the war seeking refugee status are considered on a case by case basis. If they attempt to return to the States, they face a court martial and possibly prison for deserting their “duty”.
In November 2007, the Canadian Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the war resisters, but then in December, the Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship & Immigration passed a resolution to allow them to stay. Valerie Lannon from the local War Resister’s Support Campaign (WRSC), talked about the urgent need to put pressure on the government. “This is only a partial victory and we need to keep up the momentum,” said Lannon. “We need the government to implement a program to allow the young men and women to stay in Canada. Every supportive email or letter from concerned citizens makes a difference.”
To find out more about the War Resisters, go to www.resisters.ca