by Andrew Pulver
October 10, 2013
Early on in Sebastian Junger‘s film about his late friend, colleague and regular collaborator Tim Hetherington, there is an eerie shot, prosaic yet haunting. The camera pans jerkily across the back seat of a car, as the Bee Gees’s How Deep Is Your Love blasts tinnily from the radio, and a caption tells us we are looking at Chris Hondros and Guy Martin. Those familiar with the circumstances of Hetherington’s death during an assault on rebel forces in the Libyan city of Misrata in 2011 will be aware that Hondros was killed in the same attack, and Martin severely wounded. Hetherington, it becomes clear, shot this piece of film himself, and we can hear him mildly asking the driver: “Which way is the frontline from here?” – the accidental line of dialogue that gives Junger’s documentary its resonant title.
Which Way Is the Front Line From Here is a moving memorial to Hetherington, only 40 when he died, after a brief but influential career as a war photographer that took in extensive periods covering the Liberian civil war and the Afghan conflict. Junger, who took Hetherington with him to Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair, where they filmed the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, says he wrestled with the best way to structure his film.
“I wanted to bookend the film with what happened in Misrata. Because Tim died there, it seemed the only way to do it,” says Junger. “You start with a point where you think something really bad is going to happen, then you go back and tell the life till you get back to that point. It seemed like a classic structure, and it would be the way I’d have done it in a book. The only mortifying thing was the song on the radio; lots of people think it was a musical choice on my part, but that’s just what was playing.”