‘Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington’ documents photojournalist, need for survival training

Photo is used with accordance to Fair Use.

Photo is used with accordance to Fair Use.

Blake Becker

A film from the True/False Film Festival is showing on HBO.
[tabgroup][tab title=”Film Overview”] [heading style=”1″]”Which Way is the Front Line From Here?” The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington[/heading]

Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington highlights Hetherington’s career in photojournalism, showcasing photos and videos Hetherington took in his travels, accompanied by narration from his family and friends, blending the strength of the interviews and the photos to form a vivid depiction of Hetherington’s passion for photojournalism and the impact he had on those around him. Hetherington first experienced the front line while accompanying rebels in Liberia during the ousting of President Charles Taylor in 2004. During that time in West Africa, he uncovered the horrific effects of war when he came across a school for the blind.

photo is used with accordance to Fair Use.
Photo is used with accordance to Fair Use.

The film showcases photos Hetherington took while at the school, capturing the emotion and turmoil he witnessed and relaying the same experience and feeling back to the audience. It’s through this and his coverage in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan that Hetherington developed a deep devotion to take more than just pictures but to contain in his photos the story and emotion of people and convey that story to the audience. He wanted photos that would have meaning and engage the viewer.

Because Hetherington’s profession often put him in the line of fire, he took great consideration into staying away from the front line, for the sake of not only staying alive but to alleviate the anxiety his family and friends dealt with, knowing that Hetherington was putting himself in the middle of warzones. However, he was pulled back in but not by the allure of the adrenaline. Hetherington’s personality held great compassion for others and an urge to take more than just pictures ‒ to photograph people, their ideas, their pain and share those people with the rest of the world. This led him to following rebels in the Libyan uprising in April of 2011 where Hetherington was hit by shrapnel and bled to death.

Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington is an astounding documentary, that while requires patience, grants a look into the invigorating endeavors of Hetherington and a visually overwhelming experience with the compilation of the video clips and photographs he took. The documentary is a great emotional experience, compounding the impact Hetherington had not only on the journalistic community but on the people surrounding him.

Please press ‘TOP’ then select ‘Director speaks’ to proceed to the next part of the story. [divider top=”1″][/tab][tab title=”Director speaks” ] [heading style=”1″]Sebastian Junger discusses independent journalism[/heading]

Journalism is an ever-present, ever-changing source of information for all forms of media. War journalism, however, requires an intensified devotion and braving the risk of death to broadcast the voice of others, whose stories would go untold if not for journalists such as Tim Hetherington.

Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington is a film dedicated to the accomplishments and career of Tim Hetherington, as his photojournalism brought to light the stories of refugees of war, rebels and many others and set a standard in journalism through his bravery, compassion for others and passion for journalism.

However, on April 20, 2011, Hetherington was following rebels in the Libyan rebellion with several other journalists and entered a highly dangerous situation while recording in the fray a fight between Libyan military and rebel forces. During the engagement, a mortar landed nearby the group, severely injuring many with the flying shrapnel and also killing photographer Chris Hondros.

Hetherington died from blood loss, breaking tragedy in not only Hetherington’s family but also the journalistic community. It was Hetherington’s death that inspired journalist/war correspondent/director Sebastian Junger to start the Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues group to provide crucial survival training to war journalists and freelancers heading out into combat zones where they may encounter situations such as Hetherington’s. Junger worked extensively with Hetherington while documenting the lives of U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan in his book War and their documentary Restrepo, and he became close partners with Hetherington as they worked.

Freelancers and journalists such as Hetherington who are willing to report in war zones are vital for many news organizations, as independent journalists are an important source of information in such areas. Junger said that without war journalists and photographers putting themselves out in the fray, large media organizations would hardly be able to do extensive reporting in dangerous areas such as Afghanistan.

“If you took out every freelance reporter and photographer, the media would be blind,” Junger said. “They just can’t afford to have correspondents all over the world and bureaus all over the world and to put news teams in all of these war zones or basically around the clock ‒ 365 days a year.”

While media organizations can’t provide a large amount of coverage without independent journalists, freelancers also can’t survive well without the organizations contracting them and purchasing their work. This leads to a sort of uncoordinated agreement between the mass media and war journalists that, while is essential for both, has no real rules or set guidelines Junger said.

Director Sebastian Junger speaks in front of an audience about Tim Hetherington during the 2013 True/False Film Festival in Missouri Theatre. Photo by Blake Becker
Director Sebastian Junger speaks in front of an audience about Tim Hetherington during the 2013 True/False Film Festival in Missouri Theatre.
Photo by Blake Becker

“It’s a mutual relationship, which isn’t to say it can’t be improved, but I think the major media outlets should come up with some kind of agreement, some kind of protocol, for how to pay for this crucial work. I think freelancers are underpaid.” Junger said. “I think they should insist that freelancers have insurance: life insurance, health insurance. I think the problem is freelancers are like cats; they are sort of hard to organize, but the people who can buy their work force them to organize, and I think some agreement would be very, very important in terms of assisting minimum standards for journalist safety.”

It’s these conflicts between media and independent journalists that sparked Junger to not only start RISC in honor of Hetherington but to benefit the good of the journalistic community as a whole.

“I don’t think our society has a chance of being fully democratic without an independent press and that includes understanding what’s happening in other countries around the world, because without good information, our nation can’t formulate a wise foreign policy, and we may or may not be doing that, but we at least need good information,” Junger said. “Without the free press operating in these countries, those crucial stories would be just a black hole, with no information, and so it’s vitally important. The problem is it’s really dangerous work, and it’s not well-paid, and people get killed all the time.”

[/tab][/tabgroup] By Blake Becker