In 2010 Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington premiered their visceral war film, "Restrepo," at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize for their intimate account of American troops living and operating in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.
Three years later, Junger is making his bittersweet return to Park City, Utah, debuting his new project, "Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington," a feature-length portrait of the acclaimed photographer and filmmaker who died two years ago while covering the civil war in Libya.
Tim Hetherington & Sebastian Junger, Photo courtesy of HBO
Junger began working on the documentary in 2011, shortly after attending Hetherington's memorial service. There the director had the opportunity to interview a number of journalists who were present during Hetherington's fatal mortar attack. The resulting film is a powerful account of his 10-year career entering some of the most violent corners of the Earth.
Yet the work is also a deeper biographical account of an enigmatic individual, whom Junger described in a recent phone interview with The Huffington Post as "fully-loaded intellectually" and "switched on" all of the time. From covering youth soccer players in Liberia to documenting combat deployment in Afghanistan, Hetherington's life ricocheted between his civilian duties and his role as a reporter; he donned a tuxedo at the Academy Awards and also fought for his life in a pick-up truck in Misrata. "He did everything quickly," Junger recounted. "Like he was running out of time."
Using personal interviews with family and friends, first-hand footage in combat zones, and stills of Hetherington's work, Junger and producer James Brabazon aimed to present a comprehensive look at their close friend and collaborator. "I was trying to make a film that would keep true to the ratio of who he was. A major part was being a photographer and filmmaker, but that’s not all," Junger said. "Mainly, I just felt really lucky to know him as a friend and I missed him. I just wanted to do this so that I could preserve his greatness.”
Tim Hetherington, Photo courtesy of HBO
In memorializing Hetherington's legacy, Junger has also brought attention to the incredible risks endured by reporters and photojournalists working in the field. It's a reality that motivated Junger to start a program called Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), an organization designed to provide emergency medical training to freelance journalists.
"Tim's death brought my awareness to these things," Junger said. "After that, I had decided I wasn't going to do anymore war reporting."
"Which Way is the Front Line from Here" will be screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival until January 26th, 2013 and will make its HBO premiere on April 18th, 2013. In conjunction with the film's Sundance run, an exhibition of Tim Hetherington's photographs from Afghanistan and Liberia will also be on view at Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, Utah until January 30th, 2013.