If you haven't had a chance to see RESTREPO, make time soon! RESTREPO, an independent documentary, premiered at Sundance in January 2010 and took the Grand Jury Documentary Prize. Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger do a remarkable job of showing us the war through the eyes of the soldiers fighting in it.
Sergeant Brendan O’Byrne (l.) and Private First Class Juan “Doc” Restrepo (r.) of Battle Company, 173rd US Airborne on a train one week before their deployment to Afghanistan. Italy. 2007. Image © Outpost Films
The movie's title has been one of question - is it a person or a place? Well, the answer is both - it's a person first, then a place. Juan Restrepo, a young soldier who voluntarily enlisted in the army because the physical challenge and disciplined appealed to him, was sent to Afghanistan in the spring of 2007. A camera crew was embedded in Restrepo's platoon, which was sent to the Korengal Valley, the most dangerous place in Afghanistan, to secure an area of land needed to build a major road. Shortly after arriving in and getting briefed about Korengal, the group of soldiers come under fire and Restrepo is hit. This is really where the film begins - this is where we, the audience, get a look into the minds and motivations of the soldiers. As a sign of respect and honor, Restrepo's group names their camp "Outpost Restrepo."
Outpost (“OP”) Restrepo. Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan. 2008. Image © Outpost Films
In addition to documenting the surviving soldiers' feelings and motivations, Hetherington and Junger spend the rest of the film carefully depicting realities of the war most never think about - like meetings with the elder residents of the surrounding villages. The interesting takeaway from this film is thus: The bond that's developed between soldiers is a crucial element in their motivation to fight - much more so than the objective mission with which they're originally charged.
Captain Dan Kearney of Battle Company, 173rd US Airborne meets with
local Afghan elders in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
2008. Image © Outpost Films
Whether you're a supporter of the war, a supporter of the soldiers, none or all of the above, make it a point to see this movie.
By the way, Sebastian Junger's book, War, expands upon his experiences in the Korengal Valley and his time with the platoon. It's on bookshelves now.