Safe Haven

War resisters expose the realities and myths of Canada as a safe haven.
by
Alison Mountz
Year Released
2020
Film Length(s)
80 mins
Remote video URL

Introduction

Safe Haven weaves together powerful stories of U.S. war resisters who sought refuge in Canada during wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The film shows how Vietnam era resisters participated in a movement to support the younger generation of U.S. soldiers. Safe Haven exposes realities and myths of Canada as refuge.

Featured review

Essential viewing for any course on migration, war, and peace studies.
Emily Gilbert
Professor, Canadian Studies and Dept. of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Synopsis

Safe Haven weaves together powerful stories of U.S. war resisters who sought safe haven in Canada during wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The film shows how Vietnam era resisters participated in a movement to support the younger generation of U.S. soldiers fleeing war in Iraq. Safe Haven exposes realities and myths of Canada as refuge.

This award-winning film is timely on both sides of the U.S./Canada border. Few Americans know the history of what happened to war resisters who emigrated to Canada during the war in Vietnam. Fewer still know the more recent stories of the resisters to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who also went to Canada seeking refuge. The Canadian audience knows the history of migration during war in Vietnam, but less about the more recent generation. As war continues around the globe, the question of what kinds of roles governments will play in relation to these wars is crucial: will they participate? Will they provide safe haven? Our film shows that these roles change historically and can never be taken for granted, making this a timely resource and platform for dialogue.

Read about the film's Producer/Geographer Alison Mountz: Alison Mountz is professor of geography and Laurier Research Chair in Global Migration at Wilfrid Laurier University. She moved to Canada from the United States and has spent much of her adult life crossing and researching the border between the two countries. Her work explores how people cross borders, access migration and asylum policies, survive detention, resist war, and create safe havens. Dr. Mountz's books include Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border (University of Minnesota, awarded the Meridian Book Prize); Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention in the United States (University of California, co-authored with Dr. Jenna Loyd); and The death of asylum: hidden geographies of the enforcement archipelago (Minnesota, awarded the Globe Book Award). Mountz edits Politics & Space, hosts the podcast Displacements, and directs Haven, a lab designed to preserve and share migration-related data. She is a member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada, held a Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, and the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professorship of Canadian Studies at Harvard University.

Reviews

Safe Haven is a brilliant and timely contribution to historical understanding of American responses to war. Through its portrayal of the gripping moral and ethical struggles that conscientious objectors face, it reveals the human face of the tensions at stake when a country goes to war.
Rachel Silvey
Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto
"Safe Haven is a powerful exploration of how the violence of war ripples through our societies: the devastating personal and social harms such violence produces, and the ways people resist it in order to create spaces of refuge, even when states refuse to. A compelling documentary for anyone interested in war, resistance, and borders."  
Ċetta Mainwaring, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Glasgow

Awards and Screenings

Best Documentary, Central Alberta Film Festival, October 2020
Association of American Geographers, University of Montreal and Denver, March 2023
Presentation Manor, Scarborough, Ontario, January 2023
University of Glasgow, December 2022
Toronto Premiere, Revue Cinema, September 2022
Balsillie School of International Affairs, September 2022
Official Selection, Davis Film Festival, September 2022
Official Selection, Global Migration Film Festival, December 2020
Official Selection, Marda Loop Social Justice Film Festival, November 2020
Official Selection, Las Cruces International Film Festival, March 2020
Official Selection, Bonita Springs International Film Festival, March 2020

Director Commentary

Because Safe Haven tells the stories of life on both sides of the U.S./Canada border, Producer Alison Mountz and I had a unique challenge in making this film. Though Alison has lived in Canada for some time, I had never lived in Canada, and so I felt unprepared to make a film to which both American and Canadian audiences could relate. By having the opportunity to travel and then to spend 4 months living and working on the film in different parts of the country as a Fulbright Scholar, I was able to, with Alison’s help, better think about the bigger themes and even the smaller details in the film in relations to these two distinct audiences.

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