Journalist and documentarist Sebastian Junger recollects the story of the personal and professional life of his friend and colleague Hetherington in the documentary Which Way Is the Frontline From Here: The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington (here the trailer), out in Italian theaters on April 3rd and distributed by I Wonder Pictures.
A wider audience (not limited to reportages followers) had the chance to discover Hetherington upon his 2011 Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary with Restrepo, a groundbreaking film co-realised with Junger, that follows one year in the daily life of a US army platoon in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
However, the public couldn’t know what kind of person Hetherington was - a super tall English lad who would mingle with people wherever he’d go, with simplicity and spontaneity. That’s exactly what Junger tries to deliver with his documentary: the portrait of a particular person working a particular job in his own particular way.
Tim Hetherington wasn’t a war photographer - actually he was, but he wished he weren’t. What interested him the most was to tell the stories of human beings facing such extreme conditions as war - people who don’t have full control over their own lives or have been arbitrarily subjected to them. He would mostly shoot in a medium format (which is an unfitting tool to the rapidity of war, but intimate and emphatic) and capture unforgettable, profound portraits.
As a dynamic counterbalance to his Hasselblad and Rolleiflex, he’d keep his videocamera constantly on, to catch a glimpse of events whilst they were happening - his perspective almost coinciding with that of the people surrounding him.
His Photography teacher remembers Tim as his “modern” student - the very first student who approached and produced multimedia projects. He’d turn his photos into videos, and he’d always videotape while shooting.
Straightforward in the form, compact in the use of materials and interviews, the portrait in Which Way Is the Frontline From Here: The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington is that of a grand humanist photographer, a simple and crystal-clear person who stood out of the war-journalism schemes. He was outstanding in his ability to devour the story-line, and he died doing what he was best at: telling the hidden stories of people.
Pictures: Sebastian Junger (left) and Tim Hetherington (right) at the "Restrepo" Observation Post in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. © Tim Hetherington
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