Scotland

Kajaki - dramatic minefield story told by film

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Media captionA new film tells the story of paratrooper Cpl Mark Wright's bravery in Afghanistan

A new movie recounts the story of a group of British soldiers trapped in a minefield in Afghanistan. It tells of the bravery of a Scottish corporal as he attempts to help his injured colleagues and a controversial botched attempt to rescue the marooned soldiers.

The film - Kajaki - shows how the soldiers - mainly from the Parachute Regiment - had been keeping watch from hilltop look-outs near a strategically important dam in Helmand province in 2006, when three of the group set out on patrol searching for Taliban snipers.

As the patrol crossed a dried river bed, one of the soldiers stepped on a mine which blew off one of his legs.

Corporal Mark Wright, from Edinburgh, led a mission to rescue their injured colleague and ended up trapped in an unmarked minefield.

Image copyright Kajaki
Image caption Kajaki tells of a rescue operation in Afghanistan eight years ago

Edinburgh-born actor David Elliot, who plays Cpl Wright in the film, says: "They set off to rescue one of their colleagues who had stepped on a mine, in trying to recover him they discover they are actually in a minefield.

"When a second mine goes off they are locked down."

Mr Elliot say the first half of the movie is "like a horror film or a thriller", full of suspense.

"The rest of it is a story of humanity and being there for your friends," he says.

"And bravery and honour and the lengths people will go to, to save their friends."

Image copyright Empics
Image caption Actor David Elliot says the film got a positive response from Afghanistan veterans

Cpl Wright was posthumously awarded the George Cross for bravery.

The citation said: "Despite this horrific situation and the serious injuries he had himself sustained, Cpl Wright continued to command and control the incident.

"He remained conscious for the majority of the time, continually shouting encouragement to those around, maintaining morale and calm amongst the many wounded men."

His parents, Bobby and Gem Wright, who were closely involved with the making of the film, say they are proud it has been made.

At first they were "excited but a bit dubious" about how the film would turn out, says Cpl Wright's mother.

But she says: "When we really thought about it, we thought it is a brilliant idea because Mark's name will always live on and it portrays how they all worked together."

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Image caption Cpl Wright's parents Bobby and Gem have not been able to watch the film

Despite giving her backing to the film, Cpl Wright's mother says she will not be going to see it because "it is too heartbreaking".

His father Bobby has seen part of the film but had to leave when the actor playing his son got injured.

Mr Wright adds: "The camaraderie of the guys, the bravery. It was just extraordinary to see them all pulling together."

Three other soldiers lost legs in the incident eight years ago, another three suffered blast injures.

The coroner at an inquest into Cpl Wright's death criticised the lack of equipment and winches for helicopters that would have lifted the soldiers out of danger much quicker.

He said those responsible for the failings of the rescue attempt should "hang their heads in shame" and said it was "lamentable" the UK was not equipped to stage an effective rescue.

Image copyright Empics
Image caption Executive producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin says the film is not a polemic against war

The executive producer of Kajaki, Gareth Ellis-Unwin, says the film is not all about the controversy.

He says: "Those that actively engage with the film quickly learn that this isn't a polemic against war, that you can be quite politically agnostic and take a lot from this film. That was something that was very important to us.

"The guys on the ground don't consider that they are making a grand, bold political statement by being there so why should we as filmmakers?"

Mr Ellis-Unwin adds: "It was about getting under the skin and getting on the shoulder of the guys who were serving there and trying to give a best representation of their time."

Kajaki has already been shown to veterans of Afghanistan and some of those injured in the minefield that day.

Lead actor David Elliot says he feels a huge sense of relief and some pride in their positive response to the film.

He says: "They have come back with a huge response and a thumbs up, saying 'job done'.

"They were really happy with how we had portrayed the day, how real it was to them and accurate to the events.

"We just tried to accurately portray 24 hours in the life of these men on that particular day, the exact events and how they dealt with it."

For Bobby and Gem Wright, they say they may try to watch the film one day but they already see the making of it as a legacy to their son.

Gem says: "In years and years to come people will still be watching it. That makes me proud, for everyone, not just for Mark."

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