The Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger was in town last week for his Miami International Film Festival screening of Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?, his documentary about his fellow war reporter and Restrepo codirector, Tim Hetherington, who died in combat in Libya almost two years ago.
Though the rest of their interview with Cultist will run closer to the April 18 premiere of the film on HBO, Junger and his supervising producer, Sara Bernstein, did give us a few hints about his upcoming, as-yet-unannounced next documentary project.
Their partnership began with what Bernstein called a "record-setting green light" for Junger's pitch of the Hetherington documentary.
"Yeah, that's right," Junger confirmed. "Twenty-eight minutes flat."
The trailer for Restrepo.
Junger and his producing partner on the Restrepo film, Nick Quested, met with Bernstein and her boss at HBO, Sheila Nevins. They'd barely made it through their bagels and coffee when Bernstein and Nevins committed to the project.
"For us," she said, "Tim was one of our own. Restrepo was not an HBO documentary; however, Sebastian and Tim were members of our documentary community, and I think we saw value in telling his story and the story of a life cut short, really, and a very talented one at that."
The result of telling that story is a documentary that, beyond showcasing Hetherington's stunning photographs and heartbreaking story, speaks to the general fragility of human life and the struggle to maintain compassion through it all. This is the territory that Junger and Bernstein will continue to explore in their next film together, currently in production.
"We've got to keep it a little bit of a secret," Junger said. "But I stopped war-reporting after Tim was killed."
"Can we say it's personal?" Bernstein asked.
"It's personal," Junger said.
"It's a personal type of project," Bernstein said.
"In this country," Junger allowed himself.
Later in our conversation, Junger filled out our understanding of the project while staking out his view of war that he's gained in his years as a war reporter.
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"It's so destructive, but it's the most meaningful experience you're probably ever going to have," he said. "How do you walk away from that? And it's very hard for combat soldiers. Combat soldiers are very ambivalent about coming home, and I'm trying to understand that. And my project involves that question a little bit."
Tim Hetherington did not return from the Libyan civil war. But in his photographs, video, and Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?, his compassionate eye and humanitarian spirit live on.
Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? will air on HBO April 18.