Hetherington in Afghanistan (courtesy HBO)
Tim Hetherington is trying to explain why he's drawn to documenting wars.
“There are all sorts of generalizations made up about [war]. But in going to these extremities, what’s interesting is that you see that—even in these terrible times, in these terrible moments and in these terrible extremities—people are still human. That for me is the redeeming factor of the human experience,” Hetherington says somberly before breaking into laughter. “No,” he adds, aware of how cliché he sounds. “That’s too f------ b-------.”
The footage, outtakes from a British television interview with Hetherington—who was killed while covering the uprising in Libya in April 2011—kicks off “Which Way Is the Front Line From Here," a posthumous documentary about the photojournalist’s life directed by his friend and colleague Sebastian Junger, author of the blockbuster book "The Perfect Storm."
When Hetherington was killed, Junger tried to make sense of the tragedy by seeking out and questioning the journalists who had been with him when he died.
“I had a lot of questions,” Junger told Yahoo News. “All I had known is that he had been killed. I didn’t even know what the wound was. My first impulse was to interview the journalists who had been with him to answer those questions. Very quickly I realized I was making a film.”
While Hetherington laughed off his answer, the film shows how invested he was in seeking out the "human experience." It quickly shifts to footage Hetherington shot himself while covering the Libyan uprising.
Sitting inside a car on a dusty road in Misrata, Hetherington slowly pans around the vehicle to film a normal-looking scene with his colleagues—including Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros, who seems to be bobbing his head to the song on the radio: “How Deep Is Your Love?” by the Bee Gees.
But you soon realize this is no ordinary car ride. Their driver, who calmly smokes a cigarette, sits close to his machine gun as he speeds along a deserted road littered with bombed-out cars and buildings. In a nearby car, two little kids hang out a back window and flash peace signs to the camera.
“Which way is the front line from here?” Hetherington asks at one point. He doesn’t get an answer, but just hours later, he and Hondros would be dead, killed in a mortar attack on the very front line they'd been looking for.
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