The Academy-Award nominated, Sundance Grand Jury-winning Restrepo is a story of war, loss, tragedy and bravery which resonates even more loudly with the death of co-director Tim Hetherington, who was killed during a mortar attack in Libya while reporting there. Hetherington had been scheduled as our guest for tonight. His death is a great loss to his family and friends, and to journalism. We are honored to have author David Axe (War is Boring) with us tonight in his stead. Axe has spent much time on the battlefields in Afghanistan, and he’s been here before– hosting an FDL Book Salon with Hetherington’s co-director Sebastian Junger. Tonight we’ll discuss the film, the war in Afghanistan, and being an embedded journalist.
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the US Army in the Korengal Valley — “the deadliest place on Earth.” Korengal is rife with Taliban and it’s where 90% of all the U.S. ordinance exploded in Afghanistan has been detenated.
We join the soldiers as they take and reinforce their spot, a desolate outpost now named Restrepo after their company medic, Army private Juan S. Restrepo, a naturalized Colombian immigrant killed in an early battle.
The film feels weirdly 3-D, shot with depth and clarity. Trees and craggy rocks loom, we see the distinct details of the hand-hewn rock houses (as carefully crafted as any Mid-century Modern) and terraced crops. And we get a sense of the people who live there, the frustration on both sides –and the loss.
First it’s the loss of a cow, then the detention of a local who is caught with a cache of weapons. And then begins Operation Rock Avalanche, a dangerous mission which takes both civilian and military lives.
Just because Osama bin Laden is now dead, it doesn’t mean an end to the war in Afghanistan. But Restrepo shows, with stunning grace, beauty and pain, why it should end.
A contributing editor at World Politics Review and Warships International Fleet Review, our guest David Axe is the author of the graphic novels War is Boring, War Fix and Love & Terror (the sequel to War Fix), as well as War Bots and the non-fiction account of the ROTC, Army 101. Since 2005 he has reported from the U.K., Iraq, Lebanon, Japan, East Timor, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chad, Nicaragua, Kenya, Gabon and other countries. He is also a regular contributor to The Washington Times, C-SPAN, Wired and many others.