“I’m probably the only person at Sundance not happy to have his film here.”
With these words, Sebastian Junger introduced his documentary, Which Way is the Front Line From Here: The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington, to the audience gathered at the Egyptian Theatre on Wednesday night. It’s true that for so many filmmakers, screening at Sundance, no less in one of the official selections, is a much coveted aim. For Hetherington and Junger, that was a dream realized three years ago, when their film, Restrepo won the top documentary prize here and went on to score an Oscar nomination in that category too. Six weeks after attending the ceremony in LA, Hetherington was killed by shrapnel from a mortar round in Libya.
Junger’s new documentary turns the camera on Hetherington, showing us the man behind the lens who had been taking so many important images of war, helping to document and explore the impact and effect it has on people. It is a moving story, and you can understand how at odds with the whole experience Junger must be, but it’s a worthy tribute to his friend and fellow filmmaker, showing how he was not just a fly-on-the-wall photographer but someone who would risk his own life to help others. The documentary debuted here in Park City before airing on HBO in April.
Moving from documentaries to feature films, friendship is explored in a completely different context in the dramedy, The Way Way Back, a film here that I’ve heard so many people talking about, since I arrived 3 days ago. It may just go down as one of the richest deals struck in the film festival’s history, having sold for a reported 10 million dollars. It’s by the Oscar-winning writers of The Descendants Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, and definitely has that feel to it, dealing with family and affairs and family affairs. Sam Rockwell is superb in this, providing a father-like friend figure for the lead character, played by Liam James, and I truly hope he receives adequate recognition for this role. He’s been flying under the radar for too long. Some feel the film tries too much to be like Little Miss Sunshine, even using Toni Collette and Steve Carrell in the lead roles, and have questioned whether it’s worth the price-tag, but I enjoyed it, and wish it well at the box office, come November.