CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 31. . . .April 16, 2010
Waging Peace: Canada in Afghanistan.
Brooks Bergreen & Randall Lobb (Directors). Randall Lobb (Writer). Richard Fitoussi (Associate Producer). Brooks Bergreen (Executive Producer).
n.p., 3World Media in association with FauxPop Media (www.wagingpeacefilm.com), 2009.
58 min., DVD, $19.95 (individual use). $125.00 (educational license).
Afghan War, 2001- -Participation, Canada.
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Joanne Peters.
For many decades, the image of Canadian military overseas has been of blue-bereted troops serving as members of United Nations peace-keeping forces. But, in 2010, things are different, and Richard Fitoussi, a Canadian photographer, set out on a personal quest to find out just how different it is.
He states that he is "looking for hope in the most desperate of places," and Afghanistan's bleak landscape certainly is desperate. As well, Fitoussi is interested in the way that media and journalists have "constructed war." Those of us old enough to remember news coverage of the Vietnam conflict, and other wars of the latter 20th century, are keenly aware of how television news changed our notions of combat. He chooses to embed himself with Canadian troops, to live their life and record the day-to-day challenge of keeping the peace.
Why are Canadian men and women committed to combat in this unbelievably poor country where life is brutal and harsh? Afghan society has been "pulverized" by instability, and footage of both the young and old being fitted for prosthetic limbs brings home the constant danger that comes just with walking around the countryside. The Taliban offered the promise of law and order, but the trade-off for the citizenry has been oppression and terror. But, the Taliban does offer "protection" to farmers who make a living cultivating 42% of the world's opium crop; given the difficulties of subsistence agriculture and the revenues to be gained from the poppies which grow everywhere, hard choices are made.
Attempting to bring peace and stability is the mission of the Canadians, but it is a hard sell to the Afghanis; many fear the Taliban, but they really don't want Western interference in their life, either. Still, regardless of one's political stance, one cannot help but admire the professionalism of the troops and their certainty that the right thing is being done.
Living as he does with one of the companies, Fitoussi comes to know these people well. When the inevitable happens, the "ramp ceremony" which has become a commonplace of the evening news is even more poignant and sad because the soldier in the coffin was a friend.
Waging Peace is a powerful film; the cinematography alone gives a strong sense of the incredible odds against which Canadian troops have been fighting and dying since 2001. We see and breathe the dust and the grit of the Afghani landscape. Interviews with other journalists and academics (including Jack Granatstein, the dean of Canadian military history) offer insights into the role of the media in telling the story of the conflict and perspectives on how this war differs from the previous conflicts in which Canada has participated. Waging Peace is a documentary film worth acquiring for senior high school library collections. Students of contemporary history and world issues will learn a great deal about our country's current military history from watching Waging Peace: Canada in Afghanistan.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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