Within America’s conversation about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan much criticism has been lobbed at journalists who reported from warzones while being embedded with the troops. Critics say a reporter’s chief concern should be objectivity which would (understandably) be comprised when sharing life and death situations on a daily basis. Proponents say it provides an invaluable view of war from the ground-eye perspective of the troops. I tend to fall in the latter category, and feel it’s a far more damning statement about the predicament of journalism that any one reporters’ work is expected (by editors or readers) to be all things to all people.
Restrepo, the collaborative effort between author Sebastian Junger (who also penned the bestseller "The Perfect Storm") and photographer Tim Hetherington, depicts five months (over the course of a year) spent at an outpost in the Korengal Valley, the most violent front in the Afghanistan war. The film -- which opened the Sundance film festival earlier this year and picked up the Grand Jury Prize --builds its story with on-the-ground footage as the soldiers inch along the valley, picking off Taliban members and trying to convince locals not to accept the $5/day payment to fight the United States on the Taliban’s behalf.
Restrepo’s press materials doggedly identify the film as both apolitical and being absolute reality. It presents the horrors and the boredoms of war, but the nature of filmmaking does not allow for straight across “truth”. What we see in Restrepo is more along the lines of what Werner Herzog has referred to as “the ecstatic truth” of these soldiers’ experiences. The film contains no interviews with diplomats or generals and what little context the filmmakers provide is presented via interviews with the surviving soldiers filmed months after the fact.
Read the rest of this review at Greencine.