Movie inspired by boy's cancer battle to be shown at Cannes Film Festival

Behind the scenes filming with West Suffolk College

Behind the scenes filming with West Suffolk College - Credit: Misha Panovs @MSGMISHA

An epic movie inspired by a young boy's fight with leukaemia — shot in Suffolk and using cast and crew members from a local college — will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Max Rowlandson, from Saffron Walden, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2010 and underwent treatment at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge.

Max Rowlandson with his parents and sister

Max Rowlandson with his parents and sister - Credit: Jodie Rowlandson

Max has fully recovered and has been cancer-free for six years - but his story touched the heart of a Suffolk man who was best friends with his family.

Ben Pryke, film media course director at West Suffolk College, originally came up with the idea of making a fantasy Gladiator-style film to raise money for people who had helped Max get better after the devastating blow of his illness. 

Mr Pryke, who has worked closely with the family for the last decade, then approached writer and director Richard Prendergast of SubMotion who put the idea into a script suitable for a short film. 

40 students from the Bury St Edmunds college, 20 staff and 30 film professionals joined forces on set which included some filming at Thetford Forest over lockdown.

Now, with the help of SubMotion Productions, the film 'Maximus' is finally ready for release —  filled with hope, love, and a sense that no matter what happens tomorrow, if you believe in good things, they will come true.

Half the cast and crew for the production of Maximus were students at the Bury St Edmunds college

Half the cast and crew for the production of Maximus were students at the Bury St Edmunds college - Credit: Misha Panovs @MSGMISHA

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It will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in July as part of the American Pavilion feature.

Jodie Rowlandson, Max's mum, said: “Maximus means so much to our family — it’s not just an amazing magical tale, it’s the perfect tribute and thank you to all the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital who helped save our son.  
 
“Being able to visit the set during filming, we were blown away by the professionalism of the students and creativity of the whole team."

Mr Pryke said the learners turned up on set as students and left as essential crew members working alongside professionals — a true credit to the college.

Some filming took place during lockdown and required strict social distancing measures for the 130-strong production team

Some filming took place during lockdown and required strict social distancing measures for the 130-strong production team - Credit: Misha Panovs @MSGMISHA

He added: "Max is a true ‘GLADIATOR’. Therefore, we wanted to create an epic film, to make everyone proud and also a film that makes money for the hospital that helped save Max’s life.

“We wanted to bring as many areas of the college together to work on this and create an ambitious fantasy film to send out a message of hope to other families in a similar situation."

This project has become the benchmark for a new Level 4 Digital Film Production Professional Diploma at West Suffolk College

This project has become the benchmark for a new Level 4 Digital Film Production Professional Diploma at West Suffolk College - Credit: Misha Panovs @MSGMISHA

The film involved pyrotechnics, stunt horses and wizards.

The music was scored by Jack Douglas and Daniel Coe who have produced music for the likes of The Beatles and Aerosmith.

The charity that the film is trying to raise money is called Team Max and an online premiere is set to take place in April 2021.

This project has become the benchmark for a new Level 4 Digital Film Production Professional Diploma that will start at West Suffolk College in September 2021.

A scriptwriting competition is to be launched in April and the winning script will be made into a film by those studying on this course.

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