The Patrol: Film examines Afghan war legacy
The first UK feature film about the conflict in Afghanistan is due to premiere next week.
The Patrol is set in Helmand Province around 2006/07 and tells the story of a British Army patrol sent to protect an Afghan town against the Taliban.
But early in the Helmand occupation, forces were stretched and the soldiers are ordered to lengthen their patrol. The film explores the tensions that arise and questions the strategy and equipment the soldiers are expected to fight with.
"I wanted to portray conflict in a way the public doesn't see it," explained writer and director Tom Petch, who is a former Army officer himself.
"My film raises a question that back in 2006 John Reid told us that we were deploying to into Helmand Province as part of a reconstruction effort.
"In fact he's often misquoted but I think the press conference he gave in Kabul went something like 'he'd be very happy if we left after three years without firing a single shot' because we were protecting the reconstruction effort.
"Here we are pulling out in 2014 with 444 dead and very little reconstruction seems to have happened, and those questions haven't really been answered."
The Patrol was actually filmed in Morocco. The cast was sent on a boot camp and trained in drills to learn basic soldiering techniques. It was shot in 40 degree heat - similar temperatures to the Afghan summer - and the actors were deprived of sleep on location for realism.
"The soldiers use the language they would be using so a lot of it is abbreviations, a lot of it is slang. I think you can get what is going on from the emotion of the characters rather than what they say," added Petch.
Sky News watched the film with a group of current and former military personnel, all of whom have served in Afghanistan - a scrupulous audience.
"I take issue with the idea that there was a kit or an ammunition issue," said Corporal Jake Fisher, who is in the RAF.
"But I'm sure some lads might come out and say there was, particularly if you were on a PB (patrol base) or something and you're very seldom getting resupplied.
"There was a line in it talking about the loneliness of the officer. It asks those questions that don't normally get asked."
The film doesn't judge the British Army: not the fighting nor the bravery of the soldiers, rather the purpose of the mission.
And the timing of the release is pertinent as the process of withdrawing British combat troops from Afghanistan is well under way and due to complete by the end of 2014.
:: The Patrol will premiere at The Raindance Film Festival in central London on Friday, October 4, at 9pm.
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