Tim Hetherington 2010 interview with The San Francisco Examiner about covering war 

Journalist and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Tim Hetherington was killed while covering Libya.

The San Francisco Examiner interviewed Hetherington before the film “Restrepo” he co-directed with Sebastian Junger opened at the Lumiere 3 in San Francisco in June 2010.

The documentary is an intimate look into a soldier's life on the frontline of the war in Afghanistan.

The original interview with Hetherington was edited for space. This is the full transcription of the interveiw.



What inspired you to cover war? By chance I returned to college late in my 20s for photography. I worked for a local newspaper doing feature photos, and on one project I went to Liberia to get pictures of a football team there. Going to Liberia really changed a lot for me. I didn’t realize what was happening on the same planet. My understanding that in the world everything is interconnected really grew — to go to one of the poorest countries from one of the richest countries in the world. It was two worlds apart.

How does that background relate to “Restrepo”?
Much like I built this bridge between two worlds, with “Restrepo” I’m trying to build a bridge to the American audiences about a war that’s happening in a far off land. These soldiers act as a starting point for what’s happening in this war. War is obviously costing a lot of money and with the economy as it is, Americans should really see where that money is going.

This film is not about politics or policy; it’s about soldiers.

I don’t think you have to make a political overt film to get people’s minds on Afghanistan. I actually think it focuses the mind on Afghanistan. I think there’s a real disconnect from soldiers and their communities and the wider public. Since I started covering this story I’ve seen this kind of parallel community in military culture. A lot of films that have been made have been divisive on this point.

Do you hope that the film produces some kind of change? I’m a reporter not a political activist, my job is to focus upon the war in a way that you’re not focused on the war normally. It’s not to necessarily bringing change, but focus.

What does boredom do to soldiers?
Wars can be boredom punctuated by terror. Our job was to really capture what was happening. That’s not to say that boredom is boring. Some of the quiet times are some of the best parts of the film. This is not Hollywood. This is the real thing.

Tell our readers about the physical toll this project took? We kind of did everything that the soldiers did. We had no running water or electricity. Physically, it’s a tough terrain. Like living in the mountains in Colorado. We all ended up pretty lean and wiry. We did everything they did apart from guide duty and shooting at people. I actually broke my leg in the process.

Are you going back to Afghanistan?
Yeah, I think so. It’s what I do and I really engage in the projects I do. Long term, it takes a certain toll but I want to engage audiences here.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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