Tim Hetherington never considered himself an artist. Nor could he be dubbed a partisan—his work
was far too honest. The terms “photojournalist”
and “war correspondent” sound insufficient, but they might have to do. It was in such a role Sebastian Junger met his
late friend and collaborator, whom he profiles in Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, which screens
during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
is best known for co-directing the Academy Award nominated Restrepo with Junger.
Following a platoon’s fifteen month deployment to Afghanistan’s Korengal
Valley, Restrepo is widely considered
by both critics and veterans to be the most accurate depiction of what war is
like on a day-to-day basis. Yet, Junger
clearly suggests it was his time spent in Liberia that most shaped Hetherington’s
professional approach. After his name-making
series was published, Hetherington stayed in the West African nation for
another two years. If anyone could be
considered the opposite of drive-by journalism, it would have been
and Junger showed similar commitment in Afghanistan, becoming perhaps the most
deeply embedded journalists ever.
Logically, the Korengal period factors prominently in Front Line, including footage and
interviews with veterans of the platoon that will surely interest viewers familiar
also interviews Hetherington’s colleagues, parents, and the woman he was
planning to start a family with.
However, Junger saves the last word for himself and he makes it
count. As a result, one can see Front Line as a tragically fitting
sequel to Restrepo.
Sadly, Hetherington accepted one assignment too
many, dying from shrapnel wounds during the Libyan Civil War. (Lest the State Department jump to
conclusions again, it should be noted this happened over a year before the Innocence of Muslims protests.) It was a terrible loss, as viewers can judge
from the ample selection of Hetherington’s photos illustrating the film. Despite his protestations, Hetherington’s
work shows a remarkable sense of composition.
He had an eye. Junger presents it
well in a moving tribute to his friend and comrade. Highly recommended, Which Way is the Front Line from Here screens again tomorrow (1/23)
and Friday (1/25) in Park City and Saturday (1/26) in Salt Lake during this
year’s Sundance. Eventually, it will also air on HBO (4/18).
Labels: Documentary, Sundance '13, Tim Hetherington