When you think of war photographers, it’s cynical, balls-on-the-table macho men who spring to mind. In this doc about Tim Hetherington – killed in a mortar attack in Libya in 2011 – we learn that what made him a great war photographer wasn’t tough-guy bravado. It was his genuine warmth. It’s there in his photographs – not action shots most of them, but pictures taken at off-moments. Like his portraits of American soldiers asleep in Afghanistan on a slow day, one with his arm folded under his head like child. He called another picture ‘Man Eden’ – a shot of US troops in their boxers digging sand out of the side of the hill. Bliss. What interested him was conflict as bonding – the fact that young men fight for each other, not for ideology. Is war part of their hard-wiring?
This portrait of Hetherington is filmed by his friend Sebastian Junger, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated Afghanistan doc ‘Restrepo’ with him. There is plenty of footage of Hetherington. So much, you wonder if he wanted to leave a part of himself behind should the worst come to the worst. In one unbearably lovely scene he kisses his dad, brushing aside his old man’s stiff-upper-lip Englishness. He knew he had to stop combat reporting. We see him at a conference telling a room full of people that it’s veteran war photographers who die on the frontline. And he’d recently met the woman – Idil Ibrahim – he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. And yet he still went to Libya. Intelligent and moving.