Monday, 20 January 2014

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington.

Tim Hetherington was best known as a photojournalist and filmmaker. A man who toured the worlds hot spots taking still photographs and moving images of war. Like Don McCullin before him Hetherington wanted to record the extremities of human behaviour to highlight the insanity of war, taking images of real people in unique circumstances. In Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington (2013) friend and colleague Sebastian Junger has put together a moving tribute to this rather affable man who was killed by an army mortar in Misrata, Libya in April 2011 while he was covering the uprising against the Gaddafi regime in what was known as the Arab Spring. It was Junger that was co-director on the Oscar nominated Restrepo (2010) a documentary that explores the 12 months the two men spent in the dangerous Korengal Valley in Afghanistan embedded with a Platoon of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

In the film we witness Hetherington in Liberia, Afghanistan and Libya photographing images up there on the front line, but the best of his work is not the graphic pictures of the aftermath of some bloody battle that we witness on the daily news coverage that impresses, but the more thoughtful shots like sleeping soldiers taken during the filming of Restrepo or the boy soldiers armed to the teeth and of course the people caught up in a war situation through no fought of their own.

We hear that Hetherington has complained to his parents that he had a problem getting and keeping a girlfriend but he is told in no uncertain terms that this kind of relationship will not happen while touring the world most of the year to take photos in what could be described as dangerous situations! Like McCullin, our young photojournalist does seemed addicted to war zones, and like the 18 and 19 year olds that actually fight in them it seems harder for him to adapt to the quiet and serenity of life back home.  Just before his death at 40 he did build a relationship with the Somali/American film maker Idil Ibrahim whose was probable in a better position to understand what drove Tim Hetherington to return time and time again to situations that would directly threaten his life. This documentary is very well put together and I found it sad and poignant that such an engaging humanitarian would die whist carrying out a job that he obviously loved. Take note this film deserves a far wider distribution.

Tim Hetherington R.I.P

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