Hot Docs 2013: ‘Which Way is the Front Line From Here?’ Review

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Release Date: April 26, 2013 (Hot Docs)
Currently available on HBO GO
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7/10

Sebastian Junger’s Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? is a deeply personal and heart-wrenching look at the life of Tim Hetherington, the Academy Award nominated filmmaker and photo journalist who lost his life in Libya in 2011.  Director Junger worked with Hetherington on the film Restrepo, and now has created this documentary to honor and remember him.

With massive amounts of interviews featuring Hetherington himself, it’s hard to believe this film was made posthumously. It’s this footage that makes the film all the more difficult to watch, as we get to know him as a person rather than just through his photography.  It’s exceptionally well-made, and does an amazing job at honoring Tim’s life as well as the important body of work he leaves behind.

Though the film is shot like a standard talking head documentary, featuring interviews with his family, friends, and colleagues, it’s still pleasing from visual standpoint simply because of all the breathtaking photography included from Tim’s various trips through war torn areas.

While much of the film discusses the three main locations he worked (Liberia, Afghanistan, and Libya), it never loses sight of keeping the focus on Tim.  The footage and photographs are used to show off his incredible talents and help us understand why he would constantly put himself in harm’s way. He had a unique perspective on war journalism and that’s certainly what made him stand out as one of the best.

It also touches on his upbringing and personal life, however it doesn’t linger on these aspects too much, probably because his work consumed so much of him. We learn about his philosophies on what he does, which prove to be all the more sad when hearing it from his own

It’s not an easy film to watch, though it’s not meant to be.  The war footage coupled with the interviews from Tim and his family are all heartbreaking, but not done in a sappy, exploitive way.  Much like Tim’s work itself, the film shows the humanity of war rather than the brutality.

Rather than just taking pictures of the action or the carnage, Tim Hetherington was more interested in the stories of the people affected by the violence.  His collections told stories and were much more than someone snapping press photos for blogs. His work was important and we can only hope that there are more people out there as driven and skilled as he was.

While Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? is not on the same level as Junger’s Restrepo, it achieves at what it sets out to do- honor a great photographer and a great human being. Though it’s a difficult film, I still highly recommend giving it watch.