Truth, tragedy and inspiration

The recent death of Tim Hetherington seemed to unify the doc community in its shock and sadness, as it mourned the loss of a talented truth-seeker to the sad and senseless brutality of war.
May 25, 2011

On April 20, Tim Hetherington, photojournalist, documentarian and co-director of the Oscar-nominated doc Restrepo, was tragically killed while on assignment covering the conflict in Libya between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. It was an event that seemed to unify the doc community in its shock and sadness, as it mourned the loss of a talented truth-seeker to the sad and senseless brutality of war.

Close to three weeks after that horrible news broke, a screening of Restrepo was held at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox during the Hot Docs festival to honor the memory and the work of Hetherington, with proceeds going to three charities chosen by his family – Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Sierra Leone. The screening was presented by realscreen, our sister publication Playback, National Geographic Entertainment (distributors of Restrepo), Hot Docs and HarperCollins Canada. Sebastian Junger, co-director of Restrepo with Hetherington, flew in to take part in a special Q&A after the screening. During one of the more emotional moments of a pretty intense couple of hours, Junger received a standing ovation from the just-shy-of-capacity crowd. You can read more about the screening, as well as more words of praise for Hetherington’s work, on page 31.

In addition to the proceeds from the ticket sales, approximately CDN$275 was collected by volunteers after the screening, and HarperCollins Canada donated an additional $1,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It all added up to more than $11,000 going to charity.

We at realscreen would like to offer a huge thanks to the partners for the screening – National Geographic Entertainment, Hot Docs and HarperCollins Canada – for their extraordinary efforts in bringing it to fruition and getting the word out. And personally, I’d like to offer great thanks to realscreen associate editor Adam Benzine, who hatched the idea for the charity screening, lined up the partners to pull it off, and deftly met the odd obstacle that popped up along the way. The fact that the house was practically sold out speaks volumes to the feeling of camaraderie within the documentary community and also to the hard work undertaken by everyone who helped put the screening together.

Inspiration rarely emerges from tragedy, but in this instance, I think I can say that many of us who attended the screening were inspired not only by Hetherington’s life and work (for those of you who haven’t yet seen Restrepo or his short film Diary, I urge you to do so), but by the efforts undertaken by those who worked damn hard to make this screening happen, and the outpouring of good will that followed. And for that feeling of inspiration, on behalf of myself and the entire realscreen team, I offer heartfelt thanks.

To contribute to the charities chosen by Tim Hetherington’s family, please visit


Barry Walsh

Editor, realscreen

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