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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Byron filmmaker seeks actors for war doco

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Machine gun spotter John Bryant closest to camera, Ian ‘Pommie’ Robertshaw and Paul Donnelly (gunner). The morning after the battle for Balmoral.
Machine-gun spotter John Bryant (closest to camera), Ian ‘Pommie’ Robertshaw and Paul Donnelly (gunner) photographed on the morning after the battle for Balmoral.

Luis Feliu

Wanted: men aged 20–30 who have always wanted to be soldiers but not get killed.

Award-winning Byron Shire filmmaker David Bradbury is recruiting for his current documentary exploring the traumatising effect of the Vietnam War on  young Aussie soldiers.

The amateur actors are wanted for the filming of a re-enactment of a horrific battle during that war in which outnumbered Aussie soldiers faced the cream of the North Vietnamese Army who were determined to overrun them.

Bradbury needs up to 15 young men to play the role of the diggers, who will be trained for it by a soldier involved in  the 1968 battle as well as an Iraq War veteran pilot.

For the past two years Bradbury has been working on his documentary We Were Only 19 looking at those soldiers in that battle,  and next month he heads off to Vietnam to do the re-enactment shoot.

The ABC has commissioned Bradbury to make the film, part of which is the battle re-enactment involving one of the Australian conscripts who fought in it, Brian Cleaver.

‘Brian was so traumatised by the experiences in Vietnam and this untold battle, that his way of dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is to find the missing 42 bodies of enemy soldiers killed on the nights of May 26 and 28, 1968,’ the filmmaker said.

‘They were all buried in a big bomb crater that was outside the Australian wire in no man’s land.

‘Most were very young Vietnamese kids, aged 15–17. Tragic, the whole affair.

‘This horrific battle took place 50 kilometres north of Saigon. Around 400 Australians were dug in and faced the cream of the North Vietnamese Army, who were determined to over-run them and move on to take Saigon.’

Bradbury told Echonetdaily that he was ‘looking for young men aged 20–30 who have always wanted to be soldiers, who wanted to be exposed to the full on trauma of battle and incoming firepower, without being killed’.

‘This is not a big-budget film and has a shoot period of only six nights in late May / early June,’ he said.

‘But I am determined to show the horror of war through what these veterans (both Nashos and Regulars and the North Vietnamese young soldiers) went through.

‘As a vision of what we face with future wars and the tip of the iceberg in not dealing with PTSD caused by Iraq and Afghan wars.’

The training and shoot will take place around Camden near Sydney in May.

‘It’s not a paid job, but basic expenses are covered, which includes a three-day boot camp where they can get fit, learn to handle a rifle and so on; they’ll have two experienced war vets to train them,’ Bradbury said.

‘They’ll have to do 100 sit-ups and 40 push-ups straight up,’ he said.

Bradbury urges anyone who thinks they can fit the bill to email  him at [email protected] stating why they want to take part in the film, their age and contact details.

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  1. That was a terrible war for both sides,our young men didn’t know who the enemy were women,children and young soldiers younger than themselves they were fighting,it was a war Australian people didn’t think we should be involve in.and of course conscription was not very unpopular. When they were pulled out and came home the government didn’t want to know about it, they got no recognition for risking their lives, of course now they do but it took a long time. I think a film would be good, for us as a nation to watch to see what our young soldiers went through


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