Saturday, 19 June 2010

Mon Cher Camarade: Feature

During World War II, hundreds of French-speaking Cajun men from South Louisiana enlisted in the U.S. military. Their linguistic skills and French heritage had been denigrated for decades in South Louisiana and was ridiculed as well by American officers in the processing centers at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. Remarkably, these same men found that their ability to speak French became of vital importance to the American war effort in French North Africa and in France and Belgium. French-speaking Cajuns not only worked with the French resistance after D-Day, but they also provided the U.S. Army’s most effective means of communication with local authorities and the civilian population, which, in turn, provided critical support and intelligence to the American army. Indeed, Cajun translators were as important to the American war effort as the now much acclaimed Native American “Code Talkers,” yet, the Cajun translators’ contributions in this regard have been largely ignored until now.

This documentary film, through memoirs and interviews of French-speaking Cajuns who served in WWII either as members of the OSS or as citizen soldiers, tells the story of this important aspect of the American war effort in Europe. Additionally, cultural scholars provide insight into the stories of these veterans from both an historic and linguistic perspective. As a result, this documentary film allows the audience to take a new look at the American experience, from a South Louisiana perspective. The Cajun G.I.’s of World War II were American citizens, however, their cultural pedigree was tributary to something other than the typical American experience. The end result is a film that acknowledges the unique and important contributions of the French-speaking Cajun soldiers to the war effort and gives long overdue credit to them and their linguistic skills and French heritage.

The story is told through a combination of powerful archival WWII film footage, moving interviews in both English and French with Cajun veterans who served in the OSS or as citizen soldiers, an original soundtrack by Sam Broussard, and 35mm film footage of the Southwest Louisiana winter landscape that symbolizes the last act of these veterans’ lives when their stories can and shoud be told.

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