COMMANDO CHAPLAINS

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Date: February 2009
Location: Afghanistan
Distributor: Channel 4 UK (12 July 2009) – 46 min.
Credits: directed and filmed by Claudio von Planta
Co-director and 2nd cameraman –¬†Jim Foster
Editor – Olivia Baldwin / Production Company – Darlow Smithons Productions
 
COMMANDO CHAPLAINS offers an insight into the work of two Royal Navy chaplains who look after British troops in Helmand, Afghanistan. They spend most of their time at the frontline where soldiers are facing death and injuries on a regular basis.


The Royal Navy chaplains are not part of the normal military hierarchy. They adopt the rank of the person they are speaking to and therefore they can have an important moral influence from the lowest ranking soldier to the highest officer.
 
Any soldier can talk to a chaplain in confidentiality and chaplains are always well aware about the welfare of the troops. They also maintain contacts with families back home and offer a spiritual and moral compass to everybody in the Armed Forces. They are not only following religious believes. They also see the Geneva Conventions as an important guideline.
 
Production Notes:

I worked with Jim Foster - with his former SAS training he is an ideal partner in a war zone. We had to film the whole documentary in only 14 days and decided to split up. Jim filmed with Nigel Bearsley, a Church of England priest and I walked in the footsteps of Bill Gates (not the one you think), a Methodist minister.
 
We had no shooting schedule. We simply had to go with the flow and film our padres where ever they decided to go.
 
I never worried too much about my safety but on patrol I was always aware about the risks of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and Taliban suicide attacks.
 
Most soldiers are coming from secular backgrounds but under the pressures of war, where they often face mortality, many tend to find comfort in spirituality and religious believes. The Talibans would obviously describe all foreign troops in Afghanistan as new crusaders. But in reality, that’s not at all the case. Christian believes are not at all a mobilising factor for the soldiers I met. Religion is a purely private affair.

 

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