It begins with a tourist promotion grade video of the beauties of Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia. And then the scene abruptly shifts to a military contingent unloading an American flag-draped coffin from a plane.
Nathan Fitch's Island Soldier, his first cinematic effort, tells a story little known to most Americans, including a lot of military veterans, about both the dependence of U.S. freely associated areas on recruitment in the Micronesian islands and the subsequent mistreatment of the veterans of that service.
According to a description and plot summary by the Hollywood Reporter, the story is told through three Kosraean soldiers and two struggling parents — one mourning her son killed in combat, the other watching with sadness as his youngest child signs up for the Army — Fitch's film examines the ways geopolitics shapes lives in Micronesia, who entities are still deeply tied to the United States, and whose citizens can serve in the American armed forces. Hope for a better future, sorrow for lost ways of life, and a quiet sense of outrage course through the eye-opening chronicle, a selection of DOC NYC.
Thirty years after its Compact of Free Association gave it sovereignty, the governments in the region still depend on American aid, and its people, like the residents of many economically challenged stateside regions, depend on the military as a primary employment option. But though Micronesians are welcomed into the U.S. armed forces, as non-citizens they enjoy none of the usual services and benefits at the end of their stints. Serving chiefly in the infantry, they suffer a higher casualty rate than their fellow soldiers.
Filmed over the course of six years, the documentary follows one soldier's training in Georgia and Texas, and includes footage shot among troops in Afghanistan. That material establishes Pacific Islanders' role in the frontline of American wars, and underscores the financial need that leads them there.