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RestrepoRestrepo follows in the wake of The Hurt Locker not only for its high profile, award-laden visibility but also for its claims of apoliticism. In the materials surrounding Restrepo, including Junger’s periodic Vanity Fair reports and his recently published War, a book that describes the same deployment, Junger and Hetherington emphasize life from the soldier’s perspective, eschewing questions of political motivation. They don’t ask why the U.S. is stationed in the Korengal, because, as they explain in interviews elsewhere, these are matters the soldiers themselves do not have access to. Instead, the film focuses on their lived experience, a mixture of boredom, weight-lifting, practical jokes, chaos, grief, and the constant threat of enemy fire, which rains down on the platoon on a daily basis. Interspersed with the footage are candid interview clips shot in Italy following the tour of duty. Junger and Hetherington’s cameras are flies-on-the-bunker-walls, purporting to the direct cinema school of documentary filmmaking that emerged in the late Fifties and Sixties with films like Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967) and the Maysles’ Salesman (1968). Claiming the same kind of objectivity through its access to “raw” footage, Restrepo erases the presence of its filmmakers, ignoring the critique of the “embedded” filmmaker acknowledged by direct cinema’s European counterparts in cinéma vérité, who argued that no film was ever entirely objective. If point-of-view wasn’t stated outright, it was still inscribed in editing, framing, and the selection of certain material over others.

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