by Alexander Udraufski-Osborne
March. Here in the Northern hemisphere, it marks the beginning of Spring. The plants begin to make a return, and so do the bugs – many, many bugs. More specifically for us Welsh, March marks St David’s Day and—perhaps more importantly for us at Swansea University— it’s the beginning of the infamous Varsity. However, as a break from all the Welsh and sport related articles, I’d like to discuss a hard-hitting war documentary.
Restrepo follows a single platoon of American soldiers on their 12-month tour in Afghanistan’s Korangal Valley. We witness the trials of the modern battlefield and glimpses into unexpected humanity in unimaginable situations, as well as the determination of the human spirit. The title itself, Restrepo – which is explained during the first quarter of the movie – is a prime example. All of this is captured by British photographer Tim Hetherington and American journalist Sebastian Junger – famed for his bestselling non-fiction, Perfect Storm – as co-directors.
The opening sequence is very reminiscent of pictures seen in the Vietnam-era of war films. We are treated to the view of helicopters flying over the Korangal Valley, which to us as viewers may seem quite astonishing – the sprawling mountains, and sun kissed landscape looks great in comparison to the Swansea weather. However, it becomes clear through the soldiers’ interviews, that for them, the beautiful landscape did not have quite the same effect. Although one example of many Afghanistan films out at the moment (12 Strong), Restrepo is an eye-opening insight into what is happening on the other side of the world.
Despite how unconnected to spring and Varsity as it may sound, there is a solid reason for my recommendation of this. Whatever your opinion on the Afghanistan war, it’s still an example of strength in the human mind and the unbridled forte of determination. These soldiers fought through hell on earth. It serves as an extreme instance of how we can apply a similar mindset of fortitude and drive to our own pursuits.
This documentary, and the soldiers and videographers that made it, are models from which we can learn something: a strong mentality is the kindling to success. And it’s a darn good documentary.