Overview: Technically the full title of this documentary is WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT LINE FROM HERE? THE LIFE AND TIME OF TIM HETHERINGTON. It is a portrait of the acclaimed war photographer and filmmaker who lost his life out on the job on 04.20.2011. He chronicled the human condition concentrated down to its rawest and purest form when his fellow beings faced conflict and war. His work spanned a number of films and photo essays. His most noted work was the Academy Award nominated Restrepo in the Best Documentary category. That nominee was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, who is also the director of this film on the life of Tim Hetherington.
Expectations: Most of us can claim a favorite actor or director we enjoy. But, for those of us who watch documentaries we can also list our favorite documentarians who we have followed. I can say that the body of work of Tim H. was something I appreciated. I am familiar with the work and was aware of his death in 2011. What I hope and expect from WHICH WAY FROM THE FRONT FROM HERE? is to not only be reminded of his journalistic journeys but to find out more about the man. How did he get into photojournalism? What led him to the hot-spots? How did he process and handle what he has seen? Can director Junger give me the total picture of who Tim Hetherington was?
Review: And the quick answer to that last question is, yes he can. Through footage of Hetherington’s films, numerous photographs and in depth interviews with family and colleagues Sebastian Junger has been able to create a powerful retrospective on the life of his subject. Also driving this piece is so much input from Tim H. himself. He explains why and how he did what he did every step of the way. Even his final day of footage appears. His last days were also reported a bit more graphically in the HBO limited series WITNESS: LIBYA.
WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT FROM HERE? THE LIFE AND TIME OF TIM HETHERINGTON is a strong piece for those who follow the documentary format, for those who are caught up in war journalism and those who want the story of an impassioned young man. The film’s title tells us it is about his “life and time” and indeed it is in detail. But, the first half of the title WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT FROM HERE clearly illustrates Tim H.’s mentality. He was ready and willing to go to the heart of the matter. He wanted to get to the front of the action and chronicle what drove men to do what they need to do in that situation. Even on the day of that fatal explosion in Misrata, Libya he wanted to “get in there.” One official interviewed even said, as I paraphrase, that “something was going to happen…they were disrespecting the situation…it was as if [the guys with the cameras] wanted to get ahead of the rebels.” Yes, Tim wanted and needed to be there – that was his style and mind-set. He, sadly, paid the price for that and it is the world’s loss.
In Conclusion: Simply, it is a strong testament to the beliefs and compassion of Tim Hetherington. I’m glad his story as been told and that it was Junger who told it.
Other HBO airings are on 04.18 at 2:55am; 04.21 at 2:00pm; 04.24 at 5:30pm & midnight; 04.27 at 8:15am and 04.30 at 1:30 pm. Also catch it on HBOGo.