27 June 2013

Director Promises Film on U.S. Embedded Trainers

The director of a documentary that tells the story of a U.S. Army National Guard Embedded Training Team (E.T.T.) in Southern Afghanistan 2006-2007, as well as a parallel story regarding Canadian security forces operating in the same area, Scott Kesterson says he is throwing out previous versions of the film and going back to scratch.

Kesterson recently updated listeners to the "Top Talk" podcast regarding the project, now in post-production under the working title "Bards of War." For an mp3 of the 53-minute podcast, click here.

In that interview, Kesterson says he now plans to separate the two story lines into two smaller, 40- to 60-minute documentaries. The first, regarding the "Red Devils" of 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (P.P.C.L.I.), would be released in early December 2013 via digital download or rental services such as iTunes or Netflix. The other, regarding an Oregon Army National Guard team of embedded trainers, would follow approximately one year later.

"These films are kind of putting [Afghanistan] to bed in very critical sense," Kesterson says. "What we're talking about is two versions of the war. That's why the two stories go together. One is a very kinetic version of the war, and the other is this embedded training, indigenous-type, mentor-advisor combat advisor role, which is a completely different lens on the war. You put those two side-by-side, and you start to, arguably, get a glimpse into what we didn't do right and could do better, and, arguably, is a direction in the future."

Originally shot as "At War" and slated for release in 2008 or 2009, music-rights acquisition and other other production challenges put the film project on the shelf for a few years. (A handful trailers and excerpts from that film is available on YouTube here.) After shooting the film as embedded media, Kesterson subsequently worked in Afghanistan as an information operations consultant. He also occasionally wrote at the Huffington Post.

"['At War'] was an attractive and alluring product, but a lot of that was because of the music," Kesterson says, "When you strip away the music, you don't have much of a film." In the new film, he says, contemporary follow-up interviews with veterans will help place the experiences of boots and bullets on the ground into a larger context.

"There's a very rich amount of material there, of telling just that story," Kesterson says. "That's a story of National Guard citizen-soldiers doing something that historically has never happened before: That's training, equipping, and fielding through combat, a nation's military, a national police force, and a nation's border police force."

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