Docs

Exclusive: Junger making HBO doc on Tim Hetherington

Oscar-nominated documentarian Tim Hetherington (pictured), who died earlier this year, is to become the subject of a documentary himself, with HBO commissioning his friend and Restrepo co-director Sebastian Junger to make a special focusing on his life and work, realscreen can reveal.
September 30, 2011

Oscar-nominated documentarian Tim Hetherington (pictured), who died earlier this year, is to become the subject of a documentary himself, with HBO commissioning his friend and Restrepo co-director Sebastian Junger to make a special focusing on his life and work, realscreen can reveal.

Hetherington, an award-winning photojournalist, was killed in April this year while covering the uprising in Libya, a month after he and Junger had been in Hollywood celebrating their Oscar nomination for Afghan war doc Restrepo.

Junger is now reuniting with Restrepo exec producer Nick Quested and Quested’s indie Goldcrest Films for two new projects celebrating Hetherington’s war reporting efforts.

The first, tentatively titled Tim Hetherington: His Life and His Work, will be a one-off documentary for U.S. pay-TV net HBO, commissioned by HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins and VP Sara Bernstein.

Production is under way and the doc is slated to air on the network on April 20, 2012 – the first anniversary of Hetherington’s death.

“The film is about Tim – his life, his work and ultimately his death – but it’s really about his philosophy,” Quested told realscreen. “Tim had this idea he was working on about youth in conflict, and how the stereotypes in America popular culture transcended to the front lines of conflict zones; how young men are driven to conflicts, and why they are driven to conflicts.

“Ultimately, his philosophy potentially led to his own death, but from his time with [Liberian rebel group] the LURD in Liberia, which was when I first met him, all the way to Outpost Restrepo, he was always dealing with young men in conflict.”

Quested added that there was a wealth of material available for the special, including footage of and interviews with Hetherington. “Tim was one of the most well-documented people you could possibly imagine,” he said.

The second project in the works, Battle Company, will be a 3 x 60-minute series acting as a sequel of sorts to Restrepo. The program will comprise footage shot by Junger and Hetherington in Afghanistan, of which “around 95%” will be previously unaired.

“The focus will be on the characters at [Outpost] Restrepo, rather than the troops and the deployment,” Quested explained. “So it’s more about each of the individual soldiers’ stories. Tim and Sebastian were there on-and-off for 15 months, so we have close to 300 hours of footage. Basically, it will be all new footage.” He added that he and his team are presently in talks with an undisclosed U.S. broadcaster for the series.

The projects see a return to the documentary realm for Junger, a bestselling author whose books include War and The Perfect Storm.

During a Q&A after a benefit screening of Restrepo in May this year, co-organized by Hot Docs, Nat Geo and realscreen, Junger told a Toronto audience he could not see himself returning to a war zone in future, such had been the impact of Hetherington’s death.

“I’m going to try to find a way to cover stories that are political and important without actually being in places where people are shooting guns at me,” he said at the time.

The news comes with Restrepo continuing to clock up awards and award nominations, nearly two years after premiering at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Earlier this week the film was honored at the 32nd annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards, taking the prize for outstanding continuing coverage of a news story – long form, and a craft award for editing. The film has also been nominated for a Grierson award in the Best Cinema Documentary category, the winner of which will be announced in November.

Quested and Goldcrest Films will be bringing both projects to next week’s MIPCOM market in Cannes. All world rights are available for Battle Company, and all world rights excluding the U.S. are available for the documentary on Hetherington.

Other projects on the indie’s slate include Oscar nominee Lucy Walker’s doc short The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, which premiered earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival; and Victor Buhler’s A Whole Lott More, a disability focused project pitched at the Hot Docs Forum in May.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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