In 2004 my sister Tamar joined the Canadian Forces, and just over a year into her full-time military career, learned she would be heading to Afghanistan.
My family was terrified; we never imagined that this petite woman would be sent to one of the more dangerous regions in the world. As a combat medic Tamar would experience frontline duty. I was torn by my love for my sister and distaste for a career that put her life in great danger. But Tamar was committed and determined; she was looking forward to her chance for deployment.
Confronted by the reality of my sister taking up arms, I picked up a camera and documented the reactions of family, friends and strangers. Tamar also had a camera, and her stories, revealed in video diaries, photos, email updates and phone calls presented a startling reality of life on the frontlines.
Canada has traditionally taken a peacekeeping role in a number of conflicts around the world. In 2001 that role changed and Canadian combat troops were sent to fight in Afghanistan. Today Canada plays a major role in southern Afghanistan with over 2500 troops based in Kandahar. With a growing demand for troops and a mandate to meet the Human Rights Commission imposed quotas, the military expanded the role for women in combat and, for the first time in Canadian history, women have been fighting on the frontlines.
I wanted to know who these women were and why they had chosen such a difficult career path.
Upon her return, Tamar reluctantly agreed to be filmed as she re-adjusted to normal life. It was a hard time for her, she had been under fire and witnessed horrific violence and death, but she gave me unlimited access to document her stories and insightful reflections.
I knew that her experiences and those of other female soldiers provided a perspective that had yet to be explored.
Tamar’s stories are the inspiration for SISTERS IN ARMS.
It is my hope that this film will provide audiences with a personal connection to these women; develop a new understanding of the people who choose to serve their country in this way; and encourage dialogue within the military as so many female soldiers would benefit from shared experiences, more role models and improved mentorship opportunities.