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Sundance: Remembering the humanity of war reporting
(Courtesy photo)  
A scene from "Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington," part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   Writer and documentary filmmaker Sebastian Junger.
(Courtesy photo)   Tim Hetherington, left, with Sebastian Junger, director of the Sundance documentary, "Which Way is the Front Line from Here?" )
(Trent Nelson  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  
Director and writer Sebastian Junger and Sundance Film Festival President John Cooper at the premiere of "Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington."
(Trent Nelson  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  
Director Sebastian Junger at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the film "Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington," on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013 in Park City.
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In the video interviews in the documentary, Hetherington was expressing his doubts about continuing to report from war zones.

I recognize that debate from within myself. He was 40. He had taken a lot of chances. He was starting to wonder if it was time to leave the poker table, but he didn’t leave the poker table in time. The war kind of depressed him, being exposed to violence like that. He had a pretty decent case of PTSD. He didn’t talk about it like that, but I saw the effects of it, of what has come to be called "moral injury."

What sets apart Hetherington’s approach to war photography?

It’s very easy, if you’re a war reporter, to think if there’s no shooting going on, there’s nothing to report. It’s a very narrow way to think. Tim wasn’t necessarily interested in combat. What he was interested in was how young men relate to each other, and how they act in moments of great stress, like combat. And actually, the lulls in between combat are very stressful.

In the documentary, you talk about Hetherington’s photographs of sleeping soldiers, 19-year-olds looking like 12-year-olds, made for "Restrepo." What distinguishes those images for you?

He was recording something that is absolutely essential to the combat experience, which is everyone is exhausted and can fall asleep everywhere. Exhausted sleep is part of combat. Tim thought to remember that. That morning he created one of the great documents of the War on Terror.

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What do you mean by that? ‘One of the great documents of the War on Terror’?

I feel like the image of the War on Terror is so clichéd, and very tinted by people’s political views. Many Americans see soldiers as righteous heroes, very morally black and white. Others think morally black and white in the other direction, that we shouldn’t be there. The truth of the matter is war is a lot of things: Very violent, very everything, very tiring, very fulfilling.

What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

I hope it will have an impact on public conversation. I think about war. I think about the Arab Spring, and the dangers of war reporting, and the specific extraordinariness of one guy who died way too young.


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At a glance

Beyond war reporting

“Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington” is screening in the Documentary Premieres category at the Sundance Film Festival.

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 9 p.m. » Egyptian Theatre, Park City

Friday, Jan. 25, 3:30 p.m. » Redstone Cinema 1, Park City

Saturday, Jan. 26, 6:45 p.m. » Broadway Centre Cinema 3, Salt Lake City

More » The documentary is scheduled to air on HBO in April.

Also » In response to Hetherington’s death, filmmaker and writer Sebastain Junger launched a nonprofit called RISC — Reporters Instructed in Savings Colleagues — to provide free emergency medical training to freelance journalists. “Tim’s wounds were not necessarily fatal, but he could not get to help in time, and he bled out,” Junger said. “I realized if I had been with him, I could not have saved his life. Like most war reporters, I know almost nothing about battlefield medicine. Most of the war reporting done now is by freelancers, brave people who head into combat and hope for the best.”

Info » www.risctraining.org

Tim Hetherington: Photographs from Afghanistan and Liberia

Hetherington’s work will be on exhibit in Park City through Jan. 30.

Where » Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., Park City; 435-649-4893

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