Restrepo, directed by war photo journalist and director Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, is a feature length documentary that captures the everyday life of an American platoon embedded in a remote outpost in the formidable Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. Hetherington and Junger spent a year capturing the every day life of 15 soldiers.
Restrepo is a raw and powerful account of men living in war. The directors don’t allow political agenda or ego to stand in the way of getting as close to the truth as possible. They simply turned on their cameras, often in incredibly dangerous situations, and showed us how and by whom this war is being fought.
We all know, even those of us who haven’t been to war, that war isn’t pretty. But what we often don’t see is the everyday living that knits together the experience as a whole. To show what it is to wake up each and every day with a group of men who are going to live and sometimes die together, who will experience the ordinary and the unimaginable together. Restrepo made me feel that war is a country that only others who have been there will understand.
The opening scene captures a bus of young men wearing sunglasses, drinking beer, singing and joking around. They could be going anywhere. It’s that exuberant, youthful naivite that makes you fear for them because nobody comes back from where they’re going unscathed.
This is an amazing work of journalism that does it’s utmost to not allow anything get in the way of bearing witness to the experiences of people who are fighting our wars. These are young men. Some people might call them boys. But they’re young men.
I think the directors’ statement says it best:
“The war in Afghanistan has become highly politicized, but soldiers rarely take part in that discussion. Our intention was to capture the experience of combat, boredom and fear through the eyes of the soldiers themselves. Their lives were our lives: we did not sit down with their families, we did not interview Afghans, we did not explore geopolitical debates. Soldiers are living and fighting and dying at remote outposts in Afghanistan in conditions that few Americans back home can imagine. Their experiences are important to understand, regardless of one’s political beliefs. Beliefs are a way to avoid looking at reality. This is reality.”
Tim Hetherington died recently in Libya doing what he loved doing best, taking photos and telling stories of real people in difficult situations.