Tim Hetherington’s Diary is an experimental short film that explores the simultaneity of realities within our world. Hetherington, a photojournalist whose feature-length documentary about soldiers in Afghanistan, Restrepo, is currently up for an Oscar, also investigates how his profession has shaped his life, delving into ten years’ worth of footage gathered on travels to conflict zones across the globe. Most of the war-related scenes were shot in Liberia, Chad, and Afghanistan, but there’s also material from Yemen, China, the US, the UK and Thailand.
“I wanted to try to understand the transcendentalism of it all and mentally locate myself,” Hetherington explains. He first came up with the idea in 2009, after finishing a book about the war in Liberia, when he realized just how much journalists who’d interviewed him about the book were disturbed by situations he took for granted as part of one distinctive reality. “So the desire was there to go back through the footage, to go back through what happened to me in Liberia.” Reviewing the immediate past took him further back than he first intended.
“Life is a personal and physical journey. I need to travel far, physically, and to find deep inside what I’m looking for,” shared Hetherington when we recently spoke about Diary.
Loyal to the nature of memory and unconsciousness, Diary doesn’t follow any chronology. Nor does it tell one consistent story. It is more about myriad feelings, impressions and often inexplicable associations. But the density and complexity of the 19-minute film are the result of a thorough and deliberate artistic process.
“I didn’t use any selection criteria. If anything, the criteria was that I wanted it to be like a dream, like a stream of consciousness. There is no set criteria in a dream,” Hetherington says.
I particularly like the inventive audio-visual effects Hetherington and his editor Magali Charrier employ to express the limbo-like feeling anyone who has ever been lost in (business) travels may have experienced. Perhaps this sensation is even stronger when you are war reporting. One day you kiss your baby good-bye, next thing you know you are grabbing your gear at some soulless airport and hitting the road in the company of an armed militia. You expose yourself to danger and death, you witness tremendous atrocities while you keep recording and trying to make sense of what you see, and before you realize it, you find yourself in a sterile hotel room with white sheets, plastic fruits and a warm shower.
Liverpool-born and New York-based, Tim Hetherington belongs to those fortunate ones who are able to make a living out of their passions, and his work speaks for itself. A contributor to Vanity Fair and a renowned documentary filmmaker, he describes himself as having always been curious about the world, morally outraged by political issues and wanting to understand what’s going on. “You only live once, so you need to get as much as possible out of life.” This may well be the restless photojournalist talking, but also the reflective character who now publicly shares his very personal attempt to connect his inner and outer worlds.
juliaknobloch (at) telegraph21 .com