The documentary community has united to pay tribute to Tim Hetherington (pictured), with directors Sebastian Junger and Michael Moore leading the praise for the award-winning filmmaker.
British-born Hetherington was killed in Libya yesterday, aged 40, after getting caught up in crossfire from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and Libyan rebels. The conflict also claimed the life of fellow photojournalist Chris Hondros and seriously injured two other photographers.
Hetherington was highly praised as both a photographer and a filmmaker, having won the 2007 World Press Photo Award for his photos of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan for Vanity Fair; and the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for his war documentary Restrepo.
Sebastian Junger, Hetherington’s co-director on Restrepo, led the tributes to his long-time friend and collaborator.
“There is no way to express my devastation and sorrow at the death of my dear friend, Tim Hetherington, in Misrata, Libya,” he said in a statement. “Tim was one of the most courageous and principled journalists I have ever known.
“The good that he accomplished – both with his camera and simply as a concerned person in some of the most devastated countries in the world – cannot be measured. I can’t believe he is truly gone.”
Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore also paid tribute to Hetherington, telling realscreen: “He was willing to take risks few would be willing to take. Through every frame of Restrepo you sat there fearing for the lives of the filmmakers who were there on the ground to bring us the truth.
“I am deeply saddened by this loss and I am grateful that he was willing to be there and document the struggle of a people wanting to be free.”
Elsewhere, National Geographic – which picked up TV and theatrical rights to Restrepo after it aired at the Sundance Film Festival – also spoke out.
National Geographic Society president Tim Kelly said in a statement: “National Geographic is devastated by the tragic news of Tim Hetherington’s death in Libya. This is a sad and terrible day. We join the community of dedicated photojournalists and documentarians around the world who are mourning his loss.”
The staff of Virgil Films, which handled the release of Restrepo on DVD, also paid praise to the filmmaker. Virgil president Joe Amodei said that for many at the company, working with Junger and Hetherington to get the film out had become “the high point of our careers.”
“Tim was always there when we needed an answer to anything and he was the type of partner that jumped in to help in any way he could,” Amodei added. “His creative spirit helped make the DVD into one of the company’s biggest hits.
“But business aside, this guy was a special breed of man. I once asked him and Sebastian what drove them to risk their lives, going into the darkest, most dangerous places on Earth.
“His response was simply that someone needs to show the world what is happening and pictures sometimes bring home truths that words cannot convey. Our lives were made richer by knowing him. How fortunate we are.”