Woods Hole: A venue for honest storytelling about U.S. military conflicts


U.S. Army Pfc. William A. Swaray, an infantryman and native of Monrovia, Liberia, assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Fear, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, TF Bronco, scans for insurgent activity at Observation Post Coleman outside of Combat Outpost Monti in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar Province, on May 5, 2011.


U.S. Army

WOODS HOLE, Mass. – The annual film festival here came to a dramatic close Saturday with Sebastian Junger, the acclaimed author and journalist, offering a powerful remembrance of photojournalist Tim Hetherington and his work.

Hetherington, a brilliant photographer and ground-breaking multimedia journalist, was Junger’s close friend and co-director of the film “Restrepo,” which was featured at the Woods Hole Film Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Hetherington was killed in April while covering the ongoing conflict in Libya.

The film “Restrepo” is an account of a 15-month deployment in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley — often called the "Valley of Death" — by a single company in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. It is as truthful a depiction of war as I have ever seen. And Hetherington was always dedicated to truth telling, as Junger explained.

On Friday night, I moderated a conversation about war reporting which featured Junger, a great colleague who I've known even before his book and feature film "The Perfect Storm" made him famous. At GlobalPost, we're honored to share the news that we recently named Junger to our Editorial Advisory Board.

The conversation also included two other talented documentary producers, Michael Sheridan and Beth Murphy.

Sheridan, the founder of Community Supported Film, dedicated himself to training aspiring Afghan filmmakers to produce ten short documentaries under the title “Fruits of Our Labor.” This set of shorts offers rare insights into Afghanistan through the eyes of laborers, fruit peddlers and the principal of a girls’ school. Hetherington would have loved these films for their honesty.

And for anyone interested in knowing the truth about Afghanistan, “Restrepo” and “Fruits of Our Labor” are required viewing. Individually they are both powerful. But together they offer two vastly different camera angles on what is happening there, and end up providing a wide angle of understanding.

As was discussed Friday night, the thing to do now is to find a way to get American troops to watch the Afghan films and to get Afghan fighters to watch “Restrepo.” Then maybe the two sides would have a deeper understanding of the opposition in the war in which they are both suffering. Anyone know where we can find funding to make that happen?

Also part of the conversation was Beth Murphy, the producer and director of "The List," a film about former USAID employee Kirk Johnson’s effort to save Iraqi translators and support staff who have been left behind by U.S. forces. Excerpts of this film are being featured in a three-part series on GlobalPost which started Friday and will conclude this week. The series offers a glimpse of this compelling and timely film which is expected to be released in the fall.