A chance encounter in 2010 between two South Africans, producer Markus Davies and multi-award winning war journalist Adil Bradlow, resulted in the first production in the world to be filmed with the United States Marines during combat in the final stages of the battle in Afghanistan.
Before production could start on what is now known as Battleground Afghanistan, a five-part, 48-minute documentary television series, Davies travelled around the world three times, pitched the programme 68 times and had to deal with extreme bureaucracy before the Pentagon would grant him and his crew permission to film the Marines in combat and at their most vulnerable.
“I lived and breathed this story for two years,” says Davies who was committed to bring the Marines’ point of view to the world.
With no income and with very little chances of breaking through endless red tape, Davies soldiered on while his core team Adil Bradlow (DOP), Hamilton ‘Tony’ Wende (story producer), J.J. van Rensburg (post supervisor), Richard Starkey (editor), Stef Albertyn (final mix) and Jahn Beukes (original score) had other projects on the go but were on standby for Battleground Afghanistan.
Bradlow says: “This was the first time combat video blended with documentary style camera work and as this was a new realm it grabbed National Geographic’s attention.”
Then things finally fell into place and production commenced with Captain Ben Middendorf (winner of the Alan Paton Award for best soldier in the USA) and his men of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Eight months later the footage was ready to be broadcast on National Geographic and the documentary series has screened worldwide to critical acclaim with record viewership.
“The chance that we would get to make this was one percent,” says Davies. “But even if you only have that, don’t give up. We managed to capture a part of history.”