Never forget: Stories for Remembrance Day

In honour of Remembrance Day, The Peak compiled a list of stories about the lives of soldiers, both Canadian and international, that you should check out this week

Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

By: Nathaniel Tok and Alex Bloom

Everyday Heroes

Everyday Heroes: Inspirational Stories from Men and Women in the Canadian Armed Forces is a collection of stories of Canadian Forces personnel edited by Canadian army sniper Jody Mitic.

        The service members themselves, who wrote their own stories, served in a wide variety of conflicts from the recent war in Afghanistan to the Second World War. Some of the writers did not serve in any conflicts, thereby providing a rare example of military life outside the war zone.

        The contrast between the experiences of those who served in conflict zones and those who did not creates an interesting counterpoint and differing sets of perspectives. This however was expected from men and women who served in different places and at different times. However, a similar sense of gratefulness emerges from the voices of each character describing how the Canadian military changed them and how much they valued their time spent with their fellow service members

        This creates an interesting counterpoint and differing sets of perspectives. This however was expected from men and women who served in different places and at different times but a similar sense of gratefulness emerges from the voices of each character describing how the Canadian military changed them and how much they valued their time spent with their fellow service members.

       An issue for me was that many of the stories are quite short, and do not go into as much detail as I would like, especially concerning the lives of the service members after leaving the military. However, the book still achieves its goal of sharing a wide range of stories from service members from all walks of life. – NT

 

Indigenes

Released to English audiences as Days of Glory, this French film tells the often glossed-over story of the North African soldiers — primarily from Algeria and Morocco — who fought and died for France during the Second World War.

        Western films about the Second World War often ignore the contributions from allied peoples other than the US, Russia, and the UK. While these are stories that are very much worth telling, it is important not to forget the great sacrifices made by other nations, many of which were colonies of France or the UK at the time.

        Indigenes is a war film that acknowledges those sacrifices made by nations such as Algeria and Morocco, and indeed from all across Africa, during one of the most horrific conflicts humanity has ever seen. The film does not shy away from dealing with themes of racism, the harsh realities of war, and the way that veterans were discriminated against by the colonial powers they fought for after the war ended.

        If you aren’t fluent in French or Arabic, you’re definitely going to need some subtitles for this film. However, even if you don’t normally watch subtitled films, I strongly recommend Indigenes for its honest portrayal of French colonialism during the Second World War. – AB

Joyeux Noel

If you want to watch a film about war that won’t leave you completely disillusioned about human nature then Joyeux Noel is the film for you.

       Taking place during the First World War, it tells the real-life story of the French, Scottish, and German soldiers who decided to put down their arms and celebrate Christmas together. Of course, being about war, it still deals with incredibly heavy themes, so it isn’t an easy watch — but no war film should be.

       Joyeux Noel follows characters from all three of the aforementioned nations, humanizing all sides of the conflict. There aren’t “good guys” and “bad guys,” just people. The film also adds another layer of respectfulness, in that all the characters speak their own languages, rather than having all the characters speak English in cheesy accents.

      Joyeux Noel is one of the few films that reliably brings a tear to my eye, and is filled with poignant moments of love triumphing over hate. One of my favourite parts of the film, for example, is when the no man’s land between the trenches is converted into a makeshift soccer pitch so that both sides can come together for a friendly game.

      What makes this film so touching is that it actually happened. Soldiers from opposing sides of one of the deadliest conflicts in human history saw through all the propaganda and hate and acknowledged each other’s common humanity. – AB

Honourable Mention: Passchendaele

Believe it or not, but the word “Canadian” used to strike fear into the hearts of battle-hardened soldiers.

      During the First World War, Canadian troops developed a reputation amongst their foes for being particularly effective soldiers — especially at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where they captured ground that older nations had failed to take. Passchendaele tells the story of the battle by the same name, where Canadians once again proved their determination at great cost: laying down their lives in the mud and blood of the European theatre.

        While this film by Slings and ArrowsPaul Gross isn’t perfect by any means, it is good to see representation of Canada’s involvement in the war. One Rotten Tomatoes review described it saying, “[Passchendaele] crudely welds the grisly verisimilitude of Saving Private Ryan to the contempo cultural revisionism of Pearl Harbor but can’t forge the disparate tones into a powerful whole.” It’s worth taking it with a grain of salt, and the melodramatic love story Gross wrote for his character wasn’t warranted, but at the very least, Passchendaele is a high-budget film that acknowledges the sacrifices of Canadians during the First World War. – AB