Archive for January, 2011

War. Huh. Yeah.

Posted: January 1, 2011 in film, me

What is it good for?
Embedded journalists engaging in a spot of career-boosting I’m-hard-as-fook, one-upmanship,it appears.
And making documentaries.

Shot between May 2007 and July 2008 by American journalist Sebastien Junger (he of The Perfect Storm fame) and British warzone photographer Tim Hetherington in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan – the Korangal Valley – Restrepo is vicious in its simplicity.
Named after 20-year-old medic Doc Restrepo, killed early in his deployment with the small outfit, the film snaffled the Grand Jury Prize last year for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
It follows a year in the life of a gang of soldiers defending the outpost they’ve created in the valley, known as OP Restrepo (Outpost Restrepo).

The film is apolitical to a fault – every young man here is fighting for his buddy.
Reasons as to why they are in this hellhole, or even in Afghanistan at all, are not explored. The idea is to embed with the soldiers and show that life for them is a cyclical operation of boredom, terror, death and hard graft.
And the footage is stunning. The camera is practically down the barrel of guns as they fire at, and kill, the enemy.
While the deaths of some soldiers were most likely caught on film, they are not shown – the aftermath, however, is.
One incredible scene sees a young soldier told that his friend, who is not 5 yards away, has been hit and killed.

So, you get the picture. War is hell. Junger and Hetherington are hard bastards who care more about their film than about their personal safety. But does the apolitical stance of a film like this make it absolutely political? When I watched it, what went through my head was “why the fuck are they there?”, “why did they join the army?”, “why are they playing war video games on PSPs?”….It seems insane that someone would choose this.
And for what? OP Restrepo was built to defend an area in which a road was being constructed – a road that would help locals move goods around, give better, quicker access. The soldiers never question this. They are ‘at work’. That’s it. Watching a documentary like this, you form bonds in your mind with certain soldiers. The way they just go about their business and handle the fact that every day of work is potentially their last, is shocking. There are jokers, musicians, showmen and grunts. They are all in it together. And when they get home, they’ve lost friends and limbs.