Few have given the photographer-filmmaker label as much meaning as Tim Hetherington, whose directorial debut Restrepo won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival. I had a chance to see Hetherington in person a few months after the film's Sundance bow, at the Full Frame Film Festival, and I'm sure everyone in the room shared my belief that his filmmaking career would be a long and storied one (as a photographer, he'd already won numerous awards). However, news of the worst kind made its way to us via Libya today, where Hetherington was shot and killed in a firefight. Hetherington's abstract short, "Diary," premiered at this year's Full Frame festival just a week ago; here it is.
Few films delve into what it's like to be a working war reporter, and the abstract nature of Diary (edited beautifully by Magali Charrier) offers no political commentary or contextualizing titles, instead serving as a fitting but unfortunate coda to Hetherington's too-short career:
About Hetherington's Restrepo, I wrote at Filmmaker Magazine:
While Life Extended portrays death as Father Time, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington‘s Sundance-winning Restrepo characterizes the other side of the equation: death as a visitor who might call at any time, at the behest of a very real enemy. Restrepo follows U.S. soldiers deployed in Afghanistan’s Korengal valley, and reveals unflinchingly that the characters and vernacular of the conflict in the Middle East aren’t any different from what you might witness in a local paintball fight — except in this battle, the combatants are in way over their heads, with a lack of clear goals and deadly consequences on both sides. When one of the squad members is harrowingly killed in action, the U.S. Captain vows that the squad will “find the motherfuckers that did this and make them pay.” Translate that to Pashto and you can bet the exact same speech is being made on the other side.
Hetherington's bravery is unfathomable to those of us safely ensconced in the internet world, as he courageously put himself in harm's way to bring us important reporting. Tim and the other reporters lost at his side: thank you for what you gave us, and may your work live on.