- Living Along the Fenceline by Gwyn Kirk and Lina Hoshino
As the United States military once again shifts its gaze toward Oceania during what Hillary Clinton calls “America’s Pacific Century,” new questions are being raised about what this pivot could mean for Island communities. Addressing the question, “What is genuine security?” from the critical perspective of women’s voices and experiences, Gwyn Kirk and Lina Hoshino’s Living Along the Fenceline provides a welcome tool for understanding the lived experiences of those whose communities have had to bear the brunt of the US military-industrial complex’s emerging agenda. This documentary travels to Texas, Vieques (in Puerto Rico), the Philippines, South Korea, Okinawa, Guåhan (Guam), and Hawai‘i in order to highlight the different ways in which seven women are addressing the environmental, health, sovereignty, and sexual impacts of militarism in their regions. Rather than engaging such weighty issues through too easily depersonalized mass demilitarization movements, these women humanize the trauma of militarization by offering the audience a glimpse into their everyday lives. Through Living Along the Fenceline, this diverse group of women share compelling stories of how they combat the impacts of militarization in their homelands, making possible a narrative that challenges viewers to reconsider the repercussions of an ever-rising militarism within and around Oceania.
Kirk and Hoshino’s documentary not only meticulously maps out the problematic ways the US military affects the communities outside its bases but also draws much-needed attention to the experiences of women who reside within militarized spaces. By engendering a discussion of militarization across various countries that host the US military, and by sensitively addressing aspects of engagements, encounters, and entanglements, Living Along the Fenceline makes it easier to understand the nuanced yet related ways the military disenfranchises those outside their bases. Starting in San Antonio, Texas, Diana Lopez shows how her city is economically dependent on the surrounding eight military bases. This has meant not only high rates of recruitment from the city but also devastating impacts on the environment due to dumping of toxic waste into local waterways. With strong parallels and overlapping stories, Terri Keko‘olani of Hawai‘i and Lisa Natividad of Guåhan, as indigenous women of the Pacific, discuss the military colonialization of their Island homes, which has led to health disparities, loss of ancestral lands, and violations of self-determination. While many of the women’s experiences shed light on the environmental degradation of their homes, other stories focus on the sexual violence that women have experienced. In Okinawa, Yumi Tomita (an [End Page 313] Okinawan pseudonym) challenges the idea of genuine security for those around military bases by describing her own abduction and rape by two American soldiers. While each story is personal and subjective, together these accounts represent a larger history of the continuing use of the US military as a tool for colonization.
With striking sensitivity and frankness, Kirk and Hoshino have realized an accessible and thought-provoking film that powerfully examines the sociopolitical complexities of militarization. These complexities are revealed at points of contention where colonial histories rooted in military economies meet the environments and bodies of these women. Along with shedding light on all-too-often overlooked yet utterly significant moments of military violence, Living Along the Fenceline shows how these resilient women have become community leaders in their respective communities by fighting for healing among their people and pushing for a demilitarized future. Through her organization, Buklod ng Kabbaihan (Unity of Women), Alma Bulawan of Olongapo, Philippines, offers support to women who are facing the pressures of poverty by participating in a thriving prostitution scenario. This and comparable stories of individual and collective struggles and achievements in everyday contexts work well as interconnected pieces that challenge mainstream ideas of the security...