Gallery: Mendlesham man produces award-winning film The Patrol about Afghanistan war
09:31 13 January 2014
A Suffolk man is eagerly anticipating the general release of an award-winning war movie which he helped to produce.
James Cutting from Mendlesham started out as location scout for ‘The Patrol’, a gritty depiction of British involvement in the war in Afghanistan which has already been lauded by critics.
However by the time filming had finished he had became associate producer.
The former pupil of St Joseph’s College was approached by the film’s director Tom Petch to find a location for the film set in Morocco, where James now lives.
Although Mr Petch, himself a former soldier, had initially wanted to film in Spain, James managed to find the perfect location just 40 miles from Marrakech.
James, 45, first moved to Morocco in 2001, shortly after qualifying as a barrister. He had fallen in love with the country after holidaying there the year before.
“I got fed up with the greyness of England and the politics,” said James.
“Morocco is such a free sort of country; life is more in your own hands. If you’re and idiot and you want to drive into the Sahara there’s nobody there to tell you that you can’t. You’d be an idiot but you could do it. It’s just freer.”
James was no stranger to Africa even then, having done relief work in places like Benin, Togo and South Africa.
In Morocco James made a living by taking people on trips into desert sand dunes in a 4x4, before bumping into the head of transport for the movie ‘Alexander’ in a Marrakech bar.
The movie was being filmed in Morocco at the time, and James was asked to be a driver for the production team before being seconded to the director’s team and finally working on locations.
Since then James has worked as a location manager for ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, as well as working on other blockbusters such as ‘Babel’, ‘Rendition’, ‘Greenzone’, ‘Body of Lies’ and ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’.
He’s also worked on television shows for channels like the BBC and MTV.
It was a friend who brought James and Mr Petch together. Recalling taking the director on his first trip to the location James said they reached a patch of stony desert which was “perfect for Afghanistan”.
What sealed the deal was the discovery of an abandoned village, “We came across the village which had been abandoned just a few years before when the well dried up.
“I approached the mayor of the region and offered some money in return for being able to use the site.”
Part of the agreement which allowed filming to take place at the location was that the producers would employ local people. “By the time we left the area the school had new books and a new water tower had been put up,” said James.
“In that area there is no industry, all the farming is done for themselves and whatever is left over goes out. That area is pretty much barren.”
The movie was filmed in August, the hottest month in Morocco when temperatures reach 55 degrees Celsius, creating a gruelling experience for the actors and an authentic fatigue which is captured on film.
‘The Patrol’ has already picked up Film of the Festival at the Raindance Film Festival.
It follows a group of diverse British soldiers who are united by their hatred of their standard issue rifle, the SA80, and their frustration at their vehicles, the WMIKs.
The troops are sent to protect a town in Helmand during the height of the insurgency there. When one of their vehicles is hit by an IED they become stranded and surrounded by Taliban.
Much of the movie is devoted to the interaction between the men and their perceptions of the war in which they’re fighting.
“Throughout lies the questions of ‘what good are we doing here?’” said James.
“It doesn’t question the bravery or the loyalty of the troops, not at all. It questions the government.”
It will be released on February 7.