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The Doc Days of Summer: “Restrepo”

The Doc Days of Summer: “Restrepo” (photo)

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In front of a crowd largely consisting of military vets and recently discharged soldiers this week, Tim Hetherington introduced a screening of “Restrepo” with a story of how obligations prevented him from doing similar honors in person at the True/False Festival back in February. Rudy and Mace, two soldiers from the film, high-tailed it from their respective bases to make an appearance in his place, and Hetherington soon got a call from Rudy, who couldn’t believe what he was seeing: the name of his fallen comrade-in-arms Juan “Doc” Restrepo in big letters on the marquee of the Missouri Theatre.

For a documentary that isn’t given to such sentimentality, it’s a revealing anecdote. The title was one of the many things Hetherington and co-director Sebastian Junger had to fight to protect on their self-financed odyssey into the lives of soldiers stationed at the dangerous military outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (one that’s since closed).

Hetherington was only slightly teasing when he later told the audience that finding a distributor that wouldn’t compromise what he considers to be “a distillation of all the things we’ve come to understand about war and young men in war” was only slightly harder than dodging bullets in Operation Rock Avalanche, the 2007 military offensive that serves as the film’s centerpiece in which Hetherington broke his leg and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team loses one of their own on camera.

06262010_Restrepo5.jpg“We had the terrifying experience of self-financing our film because we didn’t want essentially corporate taste in the edit room with us,” said co-director Junger. “And then we’re in the terrifying place of being prepared to turn down a perfectly good offer because it might’ve come with strings attached. We didn’t blink and in the end, it was good for the people that bought the film, it was good for us, it was good for the film.”

It might not have been comfortable for the duo — when not holed up in an editing bay, Hetherington spent last year “in an empty apartment with a bed and two broken chairs” — but the film, recognized by Sundance as its Grand Jury Prize winner for Documentary and hailed here by Alison Willmore, is one of the rare, authentic nonfiction looks into the experience of war from those soldiers on the ground and how it shapes their psyches.

Little attention is paid to military bureaucracy or even who the soldiers are fighting, though we get unusual glimpses into the often frustrating negotiations between the locals, who fear retaliation from the Taliban, and the soldiers who need to stand their ground; as one soldier remarks, “The war ends at the Korengal outpost and where the war ends, the Taliban begins.”

Culled from 150 hours of footage taken during ten separate visits to the war zone over a year, “Restrepo” evolved out of Hetherington and Junger’s day jobs as journalists on assignment for Vanity Fair. Far away from the Public Information Department for the Army, the duo were able to bring along a battered video camera and just started shooting.

06262010_Restrepo3.jpgWhile at first they envisioned the resulting footage at first some kind of TV doc, they realized quickly the potential for something for the big screen. Hetherington was surprised by the amount of freedom he had, acknowledging that this is “the most honest piece of reporting” that he’s done, while Junger believes the film clears up many misconceptions about what soldiers do.

“We were continually creating our concept of the movie as a reflection of the experience we were having,” said Junger. “Everyone’s seen Hollywood war movies, so there are all these visual or storyline clichés that are floating around out there and in the edit room, I think once in a while, we’d construct one of those and it felt false. It was not the reality out there, it was another reality — it was a myth created by Hollywood.”

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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