Restrepo Review and Interview – Special Report
By Liz Kelly
December 4th, 2010
Restrepo is a real, raw and life-changing documentary that will leave your eyes wide open to what is really happening in Afghanistan. There are no Hollywood actors, no script, and you’ve never seen this coverage on the news. After sitting on edge in a screening hosted by The Creative Coalition in Los Angeles, the crowd gave a standing ovation to the Directors (Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington) and Second Platoon Servicemen (Dan Richardson and Santana Rueda “Rudy”) on stage for a special Q and A at the Pacific Design Center. This film has just been released on DVD, and it’s no surprise that this Sundance Film Festival hit is on the Oscars short list for Best Documentary.
From the moment Restrepo starts, you are in shock and awe because the Directors literally risked their lives to capture the frontline realities of war. Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington follow the Second Platoon for 10 months as they get fired upon, plan missions, meet with Afghans with translators, honor friends who die, and rally to build the Restrepo post in one of the most dangerous battle zones, the Korengal Valley near the Taliban, to honor one of their lost troops.
What is clever about this National Geographic film is that not only are you seeing raw, unedited footage, there are post-deployment interviews intermingled throughout the story. The emotions are powerful as several Servicemen reflect about their feelings while stationed at Restrepo. While we hear about the war everyday on the news, this film experience highlights the extreme sacrifices of this Second Platoon on their 15-month deployment. The guys leave their most meaningful relationships at home and say good-bye to all creature comforts that we take for granted (after seeing this film, you won’t feel like complaining about anything ever again!) On top of no love and no comfort, this platoon risks their lives everyday with multiple gun fights and missions that attempt to tap into the “hearts and minds” of Afghans and restore peace.
During the screening reception, I was honored to capture a video interview with Santana Rueda “Rudy” and his fiancé, Anna about their upcoming wedding this Sunday, December 5, 2010. Santana traveled home for this special event, and will soon return to Afghanistan to finish his third deployment. When I asked Rudy if he promised to come back in six months, he said with a big grin, “Yes.” Anna also shared her support of his efforts by saying, “I knew what I signed up for.”
When I asked Director Sebastian Junger what was the most frightening moment for him, he explained, “I was most on edge during the planning of missions, but then once we got out there, I went in auto-pilot filming.” Still in shock over what the Directors had accomplished, I asked Sebastian if he was ever afraid of his life and felt the need to defend himself. He replied, “I left the fighting up to the soldiers. They did a great job.” And when asked about their injuries, Sebastian explained, “Tim broke his leg during the Rockslide mission and had to walk back on a broken leg all night.” OMG! We also learned in the Q and A that the Directors had no electric power at Restrepo. Their only option to recharge the cameras was to walk down the mountain to another post with power and risk their lives. OMG!
You just don’t want to miss the Restrepo documentary experience. This film will be talked about for years because you’ve never seen a war movie like it. If you want to support these troops, visit Sebastian Junger’s community with posts from the Second Platoon. And for more Great Love Reports and movie reviews, visit Great Life Great Love (isn’t that what we all want anyway?)