A woman clings to a casket draped in the American flag as tears roll down her face. It is a scene that has sadly played out in many states, however, this is not America. This is the Federated States of Micronesia, a remote group of islands that have been supplying the U.S. military with soldiers ever since it fell under American administration after World War II, and even after they became a sovereign nation in 1986.

Using the recent death of soldier Sapuro “Sapp” Nena as its foundation, Island Soldier ponders why such a small nation would sacrifice their young men and women for the benefit of another country. This is especially interesting because there does not seem to be any incentive, or post-service medical coverage, for those who do serve. Capturing both the beauty of the island and the sorrow residing within it, director Nathan Fitch constructs as meditative look at a nation at a crossroads.

By focusing on the Sapp family, and other parents whose children have left home to serve the U.S. military, Fitch is able to show the deep impact of military service on the community. This is not just in terms of the grieving that occurs for the deceased, but also the fact that, with so many young people leaving to join the armed forces, there is no one to left to help maintain the farm land and keep up businesses. As a result, the older generation is forced to put off retirement and work long hours.

Tackling the subject matter with contemplative grace, Island Soldier is a visually captivating film that provides much food for thought.

Saturday, May 6, 3:30 PM, Hart House

Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.