"Slated to cover the civil war in Libya with my good friend and journalist colleague, Tim Hetherington, I had to pull out at the last minute." recalls New York-based writer and journalist Sebastian Junger. He adds, "On April 20, 2011, I got a phone call telling me that Tim may have been wounded in the combat’s crossfire in the city of Misrata, Libya." Worried, Junger desperately searches the Internet for any news of Hetherington. A twitter message confirmed Hetherington had been killed in a mortar attack less than an hour earlier.
The shock at the sudden death of Tim Hetherington and Getty photographer, Chris Hondros quickly spread throughout the community of journalists and media teams around the world.
Junger found it hard to believe that his famed friend was taken from this earthly life. So quickly! So young! The reality was shear agony. He needed to understand the tragic death in order to properly mourn and process the implication of Hetherington's absence.
The memorial service gave Junger the perfect opportunity to unravel the pieces of the tragedy. A number of journalists who had been present at the mortar attack in Misrata attended the memorial service in New York. Junger interviewed each of them and the outcome is the reason for the film about Tim's life directed by Junger himself in WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT LINE FROM HERE? THE LIFE AND TIME OF TIM HETHERINGTON. Simply reading this title, one can imagine hearing the voice with the question that would constantly flow out of the mouth of a war photo journalist looking for the front line action as did Hetherington and Hondros.
Hetherington liked to describe his war photography and front line combat filmmaking as "image-making". The complexity of his visual artistic style of media presentation will be studied in depth by future journalists. His short ten-year career is iconic. Hetherington will be remembered as one of the most important journalists of his generation. Hetherington said once, "I become deeply embedded emotionally in all the work I do." His photographs and films allowed his audience to see and think about human suffering. His specialty was to document the experience of war from the perspective of the individual defining his compassion and humanitarianism. His work is gripping, mostly documenting in areas of West Africa and the Middle East. His work received many awards for portraying amazing variety from a child soldier on the front lines to sleeping American servicemen in a combat post.
The latter being material for the making of the documentary RESTREPO directed by Hetherington and Junger. RESTREPO chronicles one year at an American combat outpost in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan known as the Korengal Valley. Their film wins the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for best documentary. Their story received a nomination for an Academy Award in 2011 for best documentary.
I recall listening to Hetherington and Junger talk about the dangers of their journalist job while working on RESTREPO. Watching their film, you see it and you believe it. The tragedy of war they witnessed and documented is the reason this story is so important to tell. War doesn't produce a win-win senerio. Innocent lives are lost and casualties' are too many. When RESTREPO debuted Hetherington and Junger made several radio interviews. I listened to one of their interviews while Hetherington simply could not contain himself emotionally upon remembering the horrific losses of those he knew (and those not) while working on the project. I was moved! He had become one of the platoon members. The only difference was that he held a camera instead of a gun.
The HBO Documentary film directed by Sebastian Junger in honor of his dear friend and colleague Tim Hetherington Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington will air April 2013. A film to be sure to keep on your radar.