Afghanistan Is for Documentarians
The United States’ longest war has not led to the type of feature cinema that helped define previous conflicts.
The fighting in Afghanistan, lurching along even now after the formal end of U.S. combat operations last year, has not produced a “Casablanca” or “Saving Private Ryan” or “Apocalypse Now.” Whether it’s the economics of the industry or the difficulty in defining the post-9/11 era, Hollywood has been relatively hesitant to venture fictionally into the quagmire. Not so, documentary filmmakers.
Such efforts have produced the visceral realism of Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s combat narrative in “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” and Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli’s “Frame by Frame,” about the rebirth of photojournalism in the war-scarred country. Documentarians have a lot of stories to tell, and they’re telling them, most of the time at high risk of life and limb.
One of the latest of this genre comes to Washington this week as part of FotoWeek DC. Louie Palu and Devin Gallagher’s “Kandahar Journals,” follows Palu, a familiar face in the photographer scrums on Capitol Hill, through five years of documenting the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan.
One possible takeaway from this pattern? While the Dream Factory has largely steered clear of shaping the stories coming out of Afghanistan, journalists such as Palu and Junger and Hetherington (killed while covering fighting in Libya in 2011) have returned again and again to get the story right.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, the National Gallery of Art’s East Building theater at 6th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest, will screen “Kandahar Journals” at 3 p.m. Palu and Gallagher will be on hand to discuss the film as well.
Meanwhile, “Frame by Frame,” which showed earlier this month at the National Press Club, will get a FotoWeek DC screening at the Freer and Sackler galleries at 1050 Independence Ave. SW on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.
FotoWeek DC runs from Thursday through Nov. 15.
In ‘Korengal,’ Sebastian Junger Closes the Book on Afghanistan
‘Frame by Frame’ Screens at Opportune Time
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