“Mon Cher Camarade,” a new film by Louisiana filmmaker Pat Mire will be shown on Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Tuesday, December 9, at 8 p.m.,
The hour-long documentary tells the story - never before told - of the role of French-speaking Cajun soldiers in WWII France. Hundreds of French-Louisiana Cajuns served as interpreters for their field commanders during WWII and several of them were secret agents who passed as locals to work with the French underground.
“Mon Cher Camarade” blends an original music sound track, 35mm film footage and HD interviews with stunning archival footage in a storytelling fashion that puts the storytelling where it belongs - on the shoulders of those veterans. The film features WWII veterans Carroll Mestayer of Loreauville, Felix Mire of Eunice, Robert LeBlanc of Abbeville, Lee Bernard of Erath and the spirit of Sam S. Broussard of Breaux Bridge and hundreds of other French-speaking Cajun soldiers.
According to the press release on the film, the Cajun man’s 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 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.
The film premiered in Lafayette November 21, at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) to a sold-out theater. “I began the journey that led to the production of this film with a brief conversation several years back with historian Stephen Ambrose,” Mire said. “Recognizing that an important aspect of the American war effort during WWII had not been told – that of the role of French-speaking Cajun soldiers – he urged me, whose father was one of those soldiers, to tell it. In the process of putting that story to film, my life took many difficult turns – losing valuable film footage and a dear actor friend to Hurricane Katrina and then losing my father, truly “mon cher camarade.” In the end, the film is a different, and I think, better film, than I had first envisioned after that early conversation with Stephen Ambrose. 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, and 35mm film footage of the Southwest Louisiana winter landscape that symbolizes the last act of these veterans’ lives when their stories can and should be told. As my friend and scholar, Carl Brasseaux, assured me when I expressed concern this film should have been made years ago, “No, Pat, they weren’t talking then.” I thank them for talking now, telling their stories and, ultimately, in so many ways, making this film possible.”
Mire, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, has nine previous films to his credit, including “Anything I Catch: The Handfishing Story,” “Dirty Rice,” “Against the Tide: The Story of the Cajun People of Louisiana,” and “Dance for a Chicken: The Cajun Mardi Gras.” Mire directed the late Mark Krasnoff, a native of Belaire Cove, in “Dirty Rice.”
This film was made possible through a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and was produced in conjunction with Louisiana Public Broadcasting.
Now residing in Lafayette, Mire was born June 23, 1953, and grew up in a farming community near Eunice. He is an English and French-speaking Cajun, busy at correcting stereotypes and misconceptions of his beloved Cajun culture by presenting an insider’s perspective.
For more information on the film, visit www.lpb.org/programs/moncher/.