During his ten-year career, Tim Hetherington first reported from the front line with rebels in Liberia during the campaign to oust Charles Taylor. This kickstarted eight further years spent in Africa, reporting on the impact of war on everyday lives. He later made his name in the film world when he spent a year holed up with a US platoon in a remote Afghan valley making documentary Restrepo, for which he was Oscar-nominated.
Six weeks after appearing on the red carpet in LA for the 2011 Oscars, Tim was back at the front, this time in Libya documenting the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. However, while sheltering behind a building on the edge of Tripoli Road, the centre of the fighting, he was hit in the leg by shrapnel from a mortar shell. Tragically, on the way to the hospital he bled out in the back of a pick-up truck and never regained consciousness.
Directed by Sebastian Junger (Tim’s co-director on Restrepo), this incredibly moving account tells the story of an extraordinary (and yet so ordinary) man who made it his life’s work to show the world not the horrors of war, but its humanity. The film documents Tim’s attempts to humanise the world of combat reporting and emphasises the enormous risks faced by journalists on a daily basis in their efforts to bring us the stories behind the headlines. Constructed from interviews with those who knew him, interspersed with Tim’s own footage – both video and stills – Junger brilliantly captures Tim’s self-proclaimed wish to “document [the world] in these extreme circumstances… where there are no neat solutions”. Tim wasn’t interested in objectivity – he was there to connect with real people.
In the film’s closing moments, Junger describes a call from a Vietnam vet from Texas that perfectly sums up the devastation wrought by war: “He said: ‘You guys, with your movie and your books, you really came close to understanding war… I’m worried that this is going to sound callous… but you didn’t get all the way. The core reality of war isn’t that you might get killed out there. That’s obvious. The core truth about war is that you’re *guaranteed* to lose your brothers. And now you’ve lost a brother and you know everything you need to know about it.’ And it wasn’t callous what he said, I mean the truth can’t be callous. It’s the truth. And finally, I got it.”
At turns heart-wrenchingly sad and immensely uplifting, this film is a must watch for anyone who thinks that when it comes to war dramas, they have seen it all…
78 mins | 15 | October 11 2013
Watched: October 18 2013, Apple iStore rental