News / Middle East

Documentary 'Restrepo' Shows War Through Eyes of American Soldiers

Writer Sebastian Junger  (l)  and photographer Tim Hetherington (r) during an assignment for Vanity Fair Magazine at 'Restrepo' outpost
Writer Sebastian Junger (l) and photographer Tim Hetherington (r) during an assignment for Vanity Fair Magazine at 'Restrepo' outpost
Mike O'Sullivan

The documentary Restrepo shows the reality of war through the experience of one American platoon in Afghanistan.  Our correspondent spoke with producers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington about the film and the soldiers it depicts.

Violence was a daily part of life for this 15-man platoon on their deployment in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.  

The film opens with the blast of an IED, an improvised explosive device, experienced with the soldiers from inside an armored vehicle.  

Author Sebastian Junger,  who wrote the best-selling book The Perfect Storm, says the film does not make any judgments.

"We wanted to make a film that for the audience that would be a completely visceral experience of war, of being in combat with soldiers," said Junger. "Soldiers do not debate the wider political questions while they are fighting.  They just do not."

The documentary follows the members of Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team as they build a mountain outpost in the heart of Taliban territory.

They name it Restrepo, after a fallen comrade, Juan Restrepo.  The 20-year-old medic was killed early in the deployment.

These men adapted to a brutal reality, says filmmaker Hetherington.

"You can say that war abases, it perverts things, but at the same time, war also humanizes you," said Hetherington. "That is something that also people have difficulty understanding."

The producers each operated a handheld camera, capturing images of  violent Taliban attacks, intervening hours of boredom, and tense weekly meetings with local villagers.  Junger says the film shows the uncertainty, fear and camaraderie that soldiers face in wartime.

"From war to war, from century to century, I do not think it changes much," he said. "It is the experience of young men facing death and protecting each other.  I think there is an essential component of that that really does not change very much."

The producers say the film is neither anti-war nor pro-war, and Hetherington says that through it, civilians see the experience of troops in frontline combat.

"We both felt that Americans, people back home, need to fully grasp what they are asking these young men to do when they send them to war," he said. "They need to understand that reality.   And we want our film to be a bridge between the public and what soldiering is like."

He says that may lead to a better informed conversation about the costs and benefits of the war.

Critics have praised the film as a stark and gripping portrait.  Some have complained that it offers only glimpses of the Afghan experience seen from an American perspective.   Hetherington and Junger admit that much about the war was beyond their scope, and say the purpose of the film is to tell the soldiers' story.  

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid