I was not emotionally prepared for Restrepo, a documentary that tells the story of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The next movie on my series about the Oscar nominated documentaries, Restrepo focuses on a 15-man outpost “Restrepo,” named after a medic killed in action. Considered one of the most dangerous outposts in Afghanistan, the men see action constantly as they build the outpost.
The film, which spans from May 2007 to July 2008, begins with home movies made by Doc Restrepo and his fellow soldiers a week before their deployment begins. They laugh and make jokes, all of them excited for the adventure ahead of them. The story is completely told through the eyes of these 15 men. The individual interviews, zoomed into the soldiers’ faces, explain life both in the valley and their lives after their deployment. The viewer is taken into the fighting — gun shots, swearing, and the emotional roller coaster of combat (both the adrenalin highs and the emotional breakdowns as soldiers see their friends wounded and killed). “I prefer not to sleep, not dream about, than sleep and see the picture in my head. It’s pretty bad,” a soldier, Cortez, says in his interview.
“The war in Afghanistan has become highly politicized, but soldiers rarely take part in that discussion. Our intention was to capture the experience of combat, boredom, and fear through the eyes of the soldiers themselves,” directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastion Junger explain. This intention is fully realized, as the images of Afghanistan, the civilians, the soldiers’ families, and the Army experience are completely filtered through the eyes of the soldiers, making the film’s perspective especially unique and emotional. The film makes the war feel less like a far away, abstract concept. The war becomes something real and tangible, especially with the men who lived it, staring at and speaking to the viewer through the screen.
Already a winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Restrepo will definitely be a contender on the 27th. It is currently streaming on Netflix and can be downloaded on itunes.