UPDATE: In the final days of our kickstarter campaign, we are hoping to hit a stretch goal of $45k. This will fund color correction and sound mix on the almost-completed film. This is essential to portraying the sights and sounds of Afghanistan, Texas, and Micronesia as vibrantly as the real thing.
A huge, overwhelming, heartfelt THANK YOU to our early supporters who helped us reach our initial funding goal.
Thank you, Kulo, Kinisou, Kalahngan, Kamagar & Sa Hachigchig!
Love, Nathan, Bryan and Fivel
ISLAND SOLDIER is a feature-length documentary that tells the personal stories of young Micronesian soldiers serving in the U.S. military. The film follows them from a remote island in the Pacific to boot camp in the U.S., an outpost in Afghanistan and back.
By sharing intimate stories of these soldiers and their families we can: humanize the impacts of U.S.-led foreign wars, show how a small island nation is caught up in a global power struggle, and let people know about Micronesia's uncertain future as it faces frightening economic and environmental changes.
We think it is important to ask, "Why are so many young Micronesians leaving 'island paradise' to fight another nation's wars?" Thousands of Micronesians - from a small population - leave family and deep community ties, and put their lives at risk. At times, there are multiple generations of Micronesian families serving in the US military together. And because it is a small nation, the repercussions of war are visible and deep.
The film is already supported by many amazing cultural and media organizations, and we were recently recommended for production funds from Pacific Islanders in Communications for $50,000!
But, there’s a catch.
They’re requiring us to produce matching funds for that $50k before being awarded the money. To that end, we’ve been able to raise $15,000 from other sources, which means we now need just $35,000 more to unlock the original funds. That’s why we’re launching this Kickstarter -- to get us over that finish line.
Now is the time to tell this story because Micronesia and its citizens at home and abroad are at a critical crossroads. Micronesian soldiers, once they return home after duty, have no access to veterans medical benefits (there is no VA in the FSM).
We are uniting friends, family and soon-to-be friends in a supportive community around ISLAND SOLDIER. We're taking our cue from Micronesia, where “wealth” is valued by how much you share resources and support friends, family and even strangers. By contributing to this campaign, you are becoming part of the ISLAND SOLDIER community.
I joined the Peace Corps in 2004, and was assigned to the island of Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia, a former U.S. territory and independent nation since the 1980’s. I fell in love with this tiny volcanic island in the South Pacific, with its lush jungles, white sands beaches, and close-knit society. But I also discovered that since 9/11, Micronesia had become a “recruiter’s paradise” for the U.S. military, and that a disproportionate number of young Micronesian men were now fighting on the front lines in Iraq, on the other side of the globe.
I had so many questions for them: Why are you fighting for the U.S. in Iraq, when I, a U.S. citizen, am not? What is it like to leave such a peaceful place for the turmoil of war? What is it like to return? It was these questions, and the somewhat guilty understanding that they were serving in my place, that is the impetus behind the documentary ISLAND SOLDIER.
Over the past 3 years, we’ve been filming with the film’s main subjects all over the world -- in Micronesia, Hawai’i, Texas, Georgia, and Afghanistan. To date, we’ve captured roughly 80% of the footage necessary to tell the personal stories contained within the film. A rough cut of ISLAND SOLDIER has already been assembled, and is simply awaiting the final footage to be shot. This is the final push to complete a film that will give a voice to Micronesian soldiers serving around the world, and an island nation whose fate hangs in the balance of an expiring compact with the U.S.
Arthur Nena and his best friend Jason Waguk - like many of their peers - joined the U.S. Army in pursuit of a much higher income than they could hope to achieve at home.
Florian Nena, Arthur’s relative, serves in Afghanistan. He puts his life on the line every day, driving an armored vehicle for the explosives ordinance disposal unit in a remote province of Kandahar.
Maryann Nena is the mother of Sapuro Nena, a Kosraen soldier killed in action in Afghanistan.
Arthur’s father, Madison, advocates for a more traditional Micronesian life, even as he watches all his children depart Kosrae for oppertunities abroad. An important community leader, Madison is part of a task force that is attempting to plot a sustainable course for the islands after US funding is slated to end in 2023.
Making a movie on opposite ends of the world is very expensive. The money will mostly go directly towards funding final shoots in Micronesia and Hawai’i, post-production (editing, sound mix, graphics), and to your donation rewards.
And there are rewards for your contributions at every level. Though, the biggest reward is being part of the community that has helped this film come to life.
Director/Producer NATHAN FITCH is a filmmaker and photographer based in New York, and a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. Nathan is currently in production on his first feature length documentary ISLAND SOLDIER and was selected for IFP's Spotlight on Documentary program. Nathan has had his work published by TIME, WNYC, ESPN, NPR, and the New York Times, including the recent short "The Deadly Cost of Fashion" as an New York Times Op Doc. Nathan is the recipient of the prestigious Picture of the Year International (POYi) multimedia award for his short about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, THE DARKER SIDE OF DREAMLAND.
Editor/Producer BRYAN CHANG is a New York based filmmaker and editor whose work has been featured by The New York Times, screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and distributed theatrically. He is a member owner of Meerkat Media, a film collective and production company specializing in independent documentary and works for clients such as HBO, MTV Networks, TIME Magazine, and Google. He has worked in post-production at the Onion News Network and The Discovery Channel, and his editing on two TIME Magazine documentary shorts "Amnesia and a Camera" and "Breach of Faith" recently won first place awards from Pictures of the Year International and the PDN Photo Annual. He directed the feature documentary BRASSLANDS, and was the lead editor on the critically-acclaimed feature documentary NARCO CULTURA.
Producer FIVEL ROTHBERG is a father and media maker who received his MFA in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College, City University of New York. He is the director of HOUSE DEVIL, STREET ANGEL an autobiographical social issue documentary. He was the Associate Producer of Kelly Anderson’s award-winning film MY BROOKLYN. His short film about New York Family Court recently won a social impact award from YouTube and See3 Communications.
Project Advisor MARLO PORAS was an apprentice to Thelma Schoonmaker at Martin Scorsese’s Cappa Productions and worked on independent films such as Greg Mottola’s DAYTRIPPERS and Alison Anders’ GRACE OF MY HEART. While producing teen oriented HIV/AIDS education films for The Population Council in Vietnam, she made the critically acclaimed MAI’s America, which won the Audience Award for Feature Documentary at SXSW, Best Feature Documentary from the IDA, and aired on PBS's P.O.V. Her film RUN GRANNY RUN aired on HBO, won the Audience Award for Feature Documentary at SXSW and the Special Jury Award at the Woodstock International Film Festival. Marlo edited the Emmy Award nominated documentary THE FLUTE PLAYER, works as a camerawoman and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Cultural Advisor VIDALINO RAATIOR is a Micronesian educator, consultant, social entrepreneur, community organizer, and doctoral student in Hawai’i. He founded the Pacific Students Media project at University of Hawaii at Hilo training Micronesian youth to use digital storytelling and social media to combat negative stereotypes of Pacific Islanders in America. Vid is a consultant for Micronesians United – Big Island (MU-BI) and We Are Oceania (WAO) two leading NGOs to support the success of Micronesians in Hawai’i. A blogger, Vid is the founder of Pacific Focused, a website to provide a hub for initiatives focusing on the success of Pacific Islanders everywhere.
Graphic Designer ESY CASEY’s work has been published internationally through Henry Holt, Bloomsbury, and Weldon Owen, including the award-winning modern visual reference guide SHOW ME HOW. Her directorial debut JEEPNEY was funded by Kickstarter & CAAM, fusing her interests in design and cinematography in a portrait of the intricately painted mass transport vehicles of the Philippines. It premiered on PBS last May.
Risks and challenges
Like many documentary films, this is a project born out of commitment to the subject matter. With that in mind, we all work as professional filmmakers, yet this is a “passion project.” We have dedicated hundreds of unpaid hours to getting it to this point. Fundraising, editing and outreach are enormously time consuming. Yet, foundations want to know that people are getting paid to steer projects like this. Paying our team members means the project is far more likely to be completed and encourages accountability. That is why this Kickstarter campaign is so critical. It will demonstrate our professionalism to major foundations, and therefore we’ll far better odds at receiving future funding.
One of the greatest hurdles to a fantastic documentary is “access.” Documentary filmmakers need the subjects, and often their friends and families, to be on board. Nathan has already spent many years of his life dedicated to being involved with Micronesian communities in the U.S. and abroad - from his Peace Corps service in 2004, developing Micronesia’s first skateboard team and learning a local language, Kosraen, spoken only by about 8,000 people. Additionally, Nathan already filmed in Afghanistan, Texas and Georgia, on and off Army bases, with the film’s subjects and with the explicit permission of the US military.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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