War through a soldier's lens

War through a soldier's lens

A documentary on the war in Afghanistan, told from the perspective of a soldier who was actually there, is set to get its public cinema premiere tonight in Gore.

Corporal Aaron Horrell was a patrol 2IC soldier, serving on a repeat deployment to Afghanistan with the New Zealand Defence Force in 2012.

He had the idea of capturing on film a taste of what daily life is like for soldiers in the modern era, and showing the sacrifices of those serving for their country.

Riverton-based production company South Coast Productions provided Mr Horrell with a hand-held camera, a Go-Pro, and helmet-mounted cameras to film his tour in the 20th rotation to Afghanistan, after requests to visit Afghanistan themselves were turned down.

However things changed about halfway through his six month summer deployment in the hot and dusty Bamyan province, when five of his comrades were killed and another six seriously injured in two separate incidents including the widely reported Battle of Baghak.  Footage from around those fatal attacks and the aftermath back at base were captured on camera.

When Mr Horrell returned home, the team looked at ways of integrating the families of the fallen soldiers into the wider story of the lives and sacrifices of servicemen and women.

It took two years of negotiations before the NZ Defence Force agreed to release the footage.  The film "Afghanistan: The Soldiers' Story" links first-hand accounts with footage from Afghanistan, and some re-enactments approved by the soldiers.

The team say the Afghanistan war was New Zealand's costliest and most controversial deployment since the Vietnam War, and believe their full-length documentary telling the story of New Zealanders at war is the first to have been made by a soldier actually serving there.

The film has already been shown to some returned servicemen and women and their families, along with previews at a Southland school and service clubs.  But tonight it will get its official premiere at the St James Theatre in Gore, before being screened at theatres around the country over the next few months.

Mr Horrell hopes his documentary will go on to be shown in schools and community groups for years to come, as a true account of what happened in Afghanistan, acknowledging the sacrifices of those serving there, and the impact on family and friends back home in New Zealand.

Watch the trailer for the documentary by South Coast Productions above.