A scene from "Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?: The Life and Time… (Courtesy HBO )
Sebastian Junger's heartfelt, intense and maddening (in the right way) documentary "Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?: The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington" examines the open-hearted, peripatetic nature of his acclaimed "Restrepo" co-director, who was killed in a mortar attack in 2011 covering the civil war in Libya.
A brave, curious soul with an uncanny, almost serene connection to the humanity of his subjects — blinded war children and theatrically dangerous rebel fighters in West Africa, close-knit American soldiers in Afghanistan (the subject of "Restrepo") — Hetherington quickly emerges as someone for whom reportorial objectivity was anathema when people's lives were so often on the brink. From interviews with family, loved ones, colleagues and those he photographed or filmed — intercut with Hetherington's own eye-opening work, and a smattering of interviews he's given over the years — it's easy to see how inspiring he could be as an artist, and how tragically addictive the insanity of combat becomes when the engagement and desire to understand run that deep.
For Hetherington, the front line was not just a set of coordinates in a bloody battle, but a space where true artists operated, and Junger's film goes a long way toward celebrating that mind set, but also recognizing how treacherous it can be.
"Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes. Playing at Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood.
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