Film: Restrepo, South of the Border

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RestrepoCourtesy Cinema Libre Studios

Restrepo

In 2007, journalist Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington climbed aboard a military helicopter headed to Afghanistan’s remote Korengal Valley to report on frontline life. Over the next 15 months, they returned 10 times to the distant Army outpost, getting an unparalleled glimpse of the mix of boredom, fear, and adrenaline that made up the soldiers’ lives.

The result is Restrepo, a harrowing documentary that tracks the deployment of a scrappy 15-man platoon from the 173rd Airborne through its life cycle, from naive bloodlust to fatigue and disillusionment. The filmmakers avert their gazes from the worst violence—such as when a soldier is shot in the head. The faces of the survivors are perhaps more disturbing. In introspective interviews conducted after the deployment is over, the symptoms of PTSD begin to emerge.

Restrepo is not intended as an anti-war film; it is singlemindedly faithful to the experiences of the soldiers it portrays. But it’s hard to conceive of a more effective piece of propaganda against sending teenagers into the wilderness to watch one another die. —Jascha Hoffman

 

South of the BorderCourtesy Outpost Films

South of the Border

Taking a break from Hollywood, Oliver Stone presents a glossy portrait of the Bolivarian revolution that swept South America during the last decade. He schmoozes with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, among others—casting them as champions of the poor who courageously stood up to the United States and the IMF.

South of the Border does give a good sense of our nation’s meddling and its subjects’ humanity. But softball questions (along with a stage-managed scene of Chávez tottering on a kid’s bike in his childhood backyard) make for an uncritical, top-down approach to understanding a populist movement. —Michael Mechanic

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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