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Published:April 23rd, 2013 08:19 EST
HBO Documentary 'Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?' Opens Your Eyes!

HBO Documentary 'Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?' Opens Your Eyes!

By John G. Kays


A new HBO documentary, `Which Way is the Front Line from Here?,` directed by Sebastian Junger, is mainly about the life and career of war photojournalist Tim Hetherinton, but on another level is about so much more. It`s hard to say, exactly what that other level is, but for me it`s the Art of Photography or the raw power of images (in a war setting), as Tim Hetherington conceived it. 


His images are the little cracks in the cement, lost around the central action; Tim shoots pictures of common people caught up in these wars, who are the pawns of the power brokers provoking such conflicts. Basically, Which Way covers Tim`s sojourns into the field of war: Liberia, Afghanistan, then finally to Libya in North Africa, where Tim was killed from mortar fire in May of 2011. 


Much of the footage shows Tim in action with his camera in the streets, capturing the people and soldiers naturally, as the conflict whirls madly around them. A good many of Tim`s incredible images flash across the screen; his photos are really what this documentary is about. 


I connected best with the photographs from Liberia; one pic was of a billboard sign that stood out amongst wreckage: `In Union Strong, Success Is Sure. Liberia Is All We Have - Let Us Nurture It, Reconcile It, Develop It, And Cherish It, For Ourselves And Our Future Generations.`


A bit ironic, when bands of young men are running wild in the streets shooting AK-47s; but these are the rebels, the sign was obviously put up by the government. I think, what I`m driving at, is that Tim`s photos tell us everything we need to know about who he was and what he was up to in his chosen discipline of photojournalism. Tim was a gifted artist and this documentary is centered, mainly, on showing us just how focused his art is.


I don`t believe I need to scratch that, such as Tim tried to do in the opening sequence, when he was not so happy with his words describing his goals in photography. That is, I`m being instinctual, feeling my way through the words, and this is how Tim was, snapping American soldiers when sleeping in Afghanistan. 


His images are naturally symbolic; well, they do say a lot about the absurdity of war, where these brave soldiers look so vulnerable for a brief moment in slumberous repose.


War is not right, is not good, and Tim Hetherington`s photos tell us that profoundly. An interview in Moscow of 2010 shows a down moment, a moment of raw honesty where Tim comes to terms with his age and realizes he could be killed in this theater of `conflict photography,` as it`s called. 



This, of course, predicts exactly what will happen about a year later in Libya. We should point out, however, and this is not so great, but this specific setting is what Tim was best at, (you know) Conflict Photography! 


One photo from the Liberian period catches soldiers shooting mortar rounds towards the populous of Morovia.  Their leader, Sekou Conneh, Lurd Chairman, denied the shooting of mortars by his men, whereas we have vivid proof of it from the image, that was widely circulated.


This is an example of how photography can play a direct role in a war, actually affecting the outcome. This man was fearless, so that we can be right there (with him) in the conflict, from the comfort of our bedrooms. 


Which Way is the Front Line is highly recommended! I`ve watched it three times already all the way through the final credits, which is partially due to the inclusion of the song, Danny Boy, performed by Shane MacGowan.