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Oscar Time for Documentary from Embedded Filmmakers of Restrepo, About Our Military in Afghanistan

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   Very few documentaries find an appreciative audience, let alone get Oscar recognition. But Restrepo, nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Feature category, is special. It is the outstanding National Geographic-backed look at the war in Afghanistan from filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, who were embedded with a military unit. From that point of view, it gives us a look at the reality on the frontlines we otherwise could never imagine. I applaud the filmmakers for the eye-opening experience, and for showing how ordinary men become heroes.
   Last year it was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance. Deserving of the acclaim were award-winning photojournalist Hetherington and journalist/author Junger, who chronicled the deployment of U.S. troops at one of the most dangerous outposts in Afghanistan. When the film was released in theaters last summer, it was hailed by critics. Then it aired on the National Geographic channel in November 2010.
   It is a really important film, and credit goes to Hetherington who has reported on conflicts for more than ten years. Junger is the best-selling author of "War" and "The Perfect Storm," who has previously reported from Afghanistan for National Geo for Into the Forbidden Zone.
   I always thought that the government tries to keep journalists/filmmakers out of war zones. But Junger told me there's actually thousands of journalists, like him and Tim, who have been embedded with frontline units. He said, "The current embed system is a program that started in 2003. And the military provides an amazing amount of access to those units. Tim and I really felt very fortunate to be able to do the job that we did."
   Hetherington explained what they did was different from most other journalists. "We spent much more time. I have friends who are reporters who do tours of duty, so to speak, that are about three weeks at the most with their combat unit. We spent ten months in total. So the length of time gave the intimacy that you feel in the piece."
   Junger said it's important to tell a story like Restrepo, named after a fallen soldier. "It makes my life feel meaningful."
   Even if it doesn't get an Oscar, the documentary is already a winner, because the troops who have seen it have said that they appreciate having their story told from their POV.
   The meaning of the film for Hetherington was "I just think it's important to build bridges between communities in the world. We all share this world, and we need to know what is happening in Afghanistan. We need to understand the lives of these young men that we send over there to fight on our behalf. And I think that telling these stories is important." Amen.
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