- 01 Nov 10
A documentary outlining two journalists' experiences documenting the War in Afghanistan in 2007
In the summer of 2007 two journalists dug in with a platoon of US soldiers on 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley. The valley, an outpost near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, is soon called ‘Restrepo’ by the troops; the name is taken from their fallen comrade, a guitar-playing, Latino medic who was killed, aged 20, not long after their arrival.
On assignment for Vanity Fair and ABC News, directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger shot more than 150 hours of footage documenting life among Restrepo’s surviving unit. For most of their tour of duty, their subjects, the 173rd Airborne Brigade are, as one of them puts it, as good as “fish in a barrel” for the Taliban fighters who roam across the region.
Much of the documentary is, therefore, given over to waiting. The daily grind of the operation and the occasional outbreaks of youthful horseplay can make the viewer think they’re at summer camp. When gunfire is exchanged, it’s sudden and manic; responses are confused and ultimately futile.
Tim Hetherington, a photographer who also reported from behind rebel lines during the Liberian civil war, and Sebastian Junger, who wrote the book that inspired the movie The Perfect Storm, have taken remarkable risks to get this footage into a cinema near you. It’s the kind of daring reportage they, sadly, just don’t do on TV anymore.
No wonder critics and supporters of the Afghan conflict have both claimed Restrepo as their own. Some read it as a call to support the boys; others view it as a call to bring the boys home. At least everyone can agree that the boys are just that. Most of the soilders here are still fighting a war on zits, never mind the unseen enemy on a rock thousands of miles from home.