CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
When you marry a man, you expect to inherit a new family, perhaps some new possessions. But if you marry a military man, you inherit a lifestyle, and not an easy one. In Nomad's Land, filmmaker Claire Corriveau shows viewers life in the Canadian Armed Forces from the points of view of various military wives.
Throughout the film, viewers come to understand the many contradictions facing these women. They are expected to be independent, capable and self-sufficient, able to keep a home and children organized and running smoothly so as not to interfere with their husband's peace of mind when he is far away and intent on a difficult job. At the same time, military wives are always seen as secondary to their husbands, the "shadow in the background" as one wife described it. They are expected to adapt to a lifetime of constant moves which results in few close friends and no chance to feel rooted in a community. Often their own careers suffer or disappear altogether. They are frequently far from family.
Corriveau introduces viewers to Lucie Laliberte, an activist who battled against the military in the 1980's and formed OSSMM (Organizational Society for Spouses of Military Members). Laliberte equates the military with control and claims she was either 'civilian' or 'military' depending on a given situation and what best suited the military 'masters.' Struggles for pensions, day care and dental plans were viewed as 'political activity.' Threats against activists included arrest, transfer to a different base, or no career advancement for their spouse. A sociologist in the film, Deborah Harrison, points out that one's loyalty is divided and constantly tested. Civilians tend to put family first while, in the military, bonding with one's colleagues, 'brothers in arms,' is crucial. As a military wife, your loyalty is torn between your family and love for your spouse and the service and your spouse's career. As Laliberte says, you always seem to "wear a mask." Corriveau stresses the lack of a person or organization which can advocate for spouses vs the military. Family support programs, chaplins and other potential means of support are all run by the military.
The film provides no solution to the problem, reminding us that military wives are still vulnerable and continue to pay a high price for their lifestyle. However, films such as this give women the opportunity to speak openly and become visible to those outside the military, thus giving them a chance to fight intimidation and stand up for their rights.
Corriveau includes a great deal of interview footage as well as shots of military wives as they go about their day-to-day lives. This is counter-balanced by scenes of their husbands deployed overseas in places such as Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. The film is bilingual, with subtitles where necessary.
Along with cold, hard facts, there is a great deal of empathy, emotion and understanding in Nomad's Land. The film would be useful in sociology, psychology or women's studies classes, and it gives new insight and understanding not only of our Armed Forces but also the equally courageous wives who may remain backstage but are crucial to military success.
Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON, where she has turned her love of travel into a new career as a travel consultant.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.