Tim Hetherington

Korengal Mountains

Filmmaker Sebastian Junger launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier today for a follow-up to his Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo. And it’s already about a third of the way funded. The new film, titled Korengal: This Is What War Feels Like, is basically a sequel to that 2010 effort, for which he and co-director Tim Hetherington were embedded with a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan for a look at a year on the front lines of the war. Hetherington later died covering another dangerous conflict, the Libyan civil war, and became the subject of Junger’s subsequent film, Which Way Is the Front Line From Here. Korengal takes us back with the duo to the titular valley for events that happened either following or alongside those in Restrepo. Junger says in his campaign statement that it had been an idea during the editing of the earlier film that they’d come back and make another doc out of the unused footage. That makes it sound almost like what they did with the Anchorman movies, but of course this is reality and also this second film is said to pick up where the other one left off, not be merely a collection of deleted scenes.

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Over the course of the year, curating the Short Film of the Day feature has given me a deep and affecting appreciation of the art form. Before, I hadn’t given much thought to the little bastards, but the truth is that they are incredibly versatile and representative of the boundaries that film can break. They can be jokes told well or human dramas driven home. They can be a perfect bite or demand to be expanded into a full meal. They can feel classic or break out into the long, strange realm of experimentation. They are so much more than movies with short runtimes. There’s one difficulty in judging them, though. With such variation, pinpointing how one can be better than another gets to be tricky. So, no matter the order, the one constant is that all the movies listed here are outstanding at what they do. The other (small) problem is that sometimes short films spend a long time touring festivals and otherwise being unavailable online. Thus, eligibility here is based solely on when a movie hit the web for us to digest. In that way, it’s the best short films from 2010-2011, but I have a feeling that that trivia won’t matter once you sit glued to the screen at the talent on display here.

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Why Watch? Director Tim Hetherington was killed yesterday while filming the violence taking place in Libya. The Oscar-nominated documentarian was no doubt bold in the face of danger, and his filmmaking belied that fact. This short from Hetherington is a surreal attempt at capturing his personal experience of the places he’s been and distilling that into something completely non-objective. It’s a beautifully shot, fascinating film, and featuring it in Hetherington’s honor only seems fitting. What Will It Cost? Just 19 minutes of your time. Does it get better any better than that? Check out Diary for yourself:

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Tim Hetherington, the director of last year’s Academy Award Nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winning war documentary Restrepo has been killed alongside photographer Chris Hondros while filming in Libya. Three other journalists were said to have been injured in the same mortar attack, but details are still sketchy. Hetherington’s last Twitter update eerily points to the danger that he and the other journalists were facing, and also seemingly criticizes international forces for their lack of involvement in the current uprising: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.” Hetherington’s film Restrepo was a documentary about a hotly contested military outpost that was set in one of the most dangerous valleys in Afghanistan. It gained notoriety not only for its craftsmanship, but also for the way it took the viewer inside of deadly war situations, like maybe no other footage before it had. In addition to that film, Hetherington also did several pieces on Afghanistan for ABC’s Nightline. The executive producer of Nightline, James Goldston, is quoted as saying, “Tim was one of the bravest photographers and filmmakers I have ever met.” Source: ABC News

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While we may not see a non-fiction film nominated for Best Picture anytime soon, the Best Documentary Feature has for many risen from a minor category rarely given its due attention to a battleground for some of the most important movies in a given year. 2010 was no exception, and in this year and in this category there are an impressive collection of docs addressing a variety of subjects in unique ways that truly exemplify the personalities of the filmmakers behind them. If no other year has convinced you the documentary is a great art form, this one should. But perhaps more significantly, this year exhibits such a variety of films that it throws the simplistic notion that a documentary should occupy one single mode of address out the window: here we have ambitious and stylish massive doc about a very complex subject, an intimate biographical advocacy piece, some on-the-ground investigative journalism, some trash art, and that film everyone’s been talking about all year that puts the entire notion of artistic truth into question. Only one of these films will take home the gold at the end of the night, but I’ll be damned if they’re not all impressive pieces of non-fiction filmmaking. And the nominees (with my prediction in red) are…

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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
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