Monday, May 2, 2011

Tim Hetherington's Diary (2010)

Diary (2010) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.

Journalists and photographers, as well as the Liberiophile community are still reeling from the loss of both Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington. In case you missed it, Tim Hetherington's 2010 Diary, above, is more than worth the 19 minutes. In fact, its an astonishing, emotional journey that is like nothing I have seen before.

Heart-stopping clips, from Tim's work in Liberia years ago, show the rebels' hellish, earth-scorching caravan advancing towards Monrovia throughout the sequence. As much an auditory artwork as a cinematographic collage, scenes completely envelope the viewer in the horrors of contemporary war, but abruptly transform into the mundane sound-byte summaries of the same events of international news headlines, heard in taxis navigating the streets of London or on a glowing screen in a Heathrow Express carriage, thousands of miles away from the carnage.

The rain blurs the windshield view of a dilapidated, war-scarred bush settlement, rushing by in the chaos of battle, slipping imperceptibly to become the drops running down the screen of a black cab making its way through an immaculate, bone-white Marylebone, a juxtaposition that is an incredible feat of technical precision. A firefight in the mountains of Afghanistan is later echoed, visually and acoustically, in the fireworks over the rooftops of Brooklyn.

A dreary, banal hotel room view of an immensely overbuilt Hong Kong is suddenly the sun-blinded, view of the burnt-black Darfurian ground in the silhouette of an immolated human. Randall Street becomes a Bangkok Expressway, which becomes a dirt road in Chad, crossed by cattle. The chaos of wanton, violent rebels scaring off desperate looters raiding a Freeport warehouse, loops into a dream-like scene of a young British girl running through a field in a delicate light of English autumn.

"Stunning" is an unfortunately overused word in our age of hyperbole, and is no longer reserved for experiences and artworks which so arrest the audience as to have a physical component to the reaction they induce--but this is what this startling film does, again and again, and reminds us further of the huge loss of such a talent storyteller.

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