The Deadliest Place on Earth
Watching violent footage of real life events can be an eye opening experience. Chicago 10 shows footage of peaceful protestors being tear-gassed and attacked by policemen. Restrepo shows footage of U.S. troops firing against Taliban members in Afghanistan. Throughout this paper, I will compare and contrast the two films Chicago 10, directed by Brett Morgan, and Restrepo, directed by Sebastian Junger. Both films are categorized as documentaries and both focus in on a societal issue. Since they are documentaries, their directors made their films so that people would become less ignorant from watching them. Morgan wrote in a statement, “I wanted to make a film that would remind people about the importance of exercising one’s constitutional rights (Morgan).” Both Chicago 10 and Restrepo can teach their viewers valuable lessons. In my opinion however, Junger’s style of documenting Restrepo was more effective than Morgans was in Chicago 10.
One way Chicago 10 and Restrepo are similar is that they let the audience know what the characters in the film are thinking. In Chicago 10, there are many times when the audience can hear what the protestors are thinking in the court rooms. In Restrepo, U.S. troops are filmed one at a time where they each talk about their experiences fighting in the war. Filming a single person talking to the camera a traditional technique of documentation. Listening to people who are directly involved in the documentary can be a powerful tool in captivating an audience. This technique also allows the audience to understand how the troops are feeling about the events taking place.
One way Chicago 10 and Restrepo are different is by their use of rhetorical strategy. Chicago 10 has a voice of authority approach because Brett Morgan used recordings and personal experience to shape his documentary. Restrepo would be grouped as a direct cinema because it films life as it happens. The use of animation makes Chicago 10 a voice of authority rather than direct cinema because the director is recreating scenes rather than showing them live. This makes Chicago 10 more abstract and further from what actually happened.
Restrepo was also different than Chicago 10 because Junger was able to film from the perspective of different U.S. troops. The ability to film from the helmets of troops gives the audience a real, 1st person perspective of the war in Afghanistan. Chicago 10 was only filmed in 3rd person perspective or from an observation perspective. This separation in film style can also reflect how documentaries have progressed. While it was much harder to make a movie in 2007 that captured an event in 1968, Restrepo shows how film today can capture many scenes that were not possible in 68’. In an interview Junger said,“Men were killed and wounded during filming, so there was a constant issue of when it was OK to turn on the cameras and when it was not. Only the filmmakers’ close relationships with the men of the platoon allowed them to keep shooting in situations where other journalists might have been told to stop (Hetherington).” The quality film in Restrepo could also classify the movie as a futuristic film because it shows how accessibility to small cameras can lead to multiple perspectives.
The interesting thing about Restrepo is that the director, Sebastian Junger, is also a writer for the New York Times and wrote a book called “War” on the events that took place in the film. Junger wrote about the frequent 100 degree whether and the fear of soldiers he encountered when making the documentary (Junger). I read this book last year for my international relations class which made seeing the film a different experience. Many of the scenes were not what I had pictured in my mind. I was amazed by the terrain in the film and the physical shape that the troops had to be in in order to do their job (See Fig 1). My knowledge of the book made the movie more powerful because I was not able to imagine the scenes how they actually occurred. The movie was Junger’s way of showing his audience what experiences troops go through.
Restrepo is like traditional documentaries because there is not a definite introduction of characters or exposition. Sabastian Junger and his co-filmer were dropped in the valley at the very start of the film and continued telling the audience more about why they are there. Morgan decided to give a lot of information about the characters, what they were like and who they were. This made me characterize people in the film more where as in Restrepo the characters were just real people.
Another difference between the two films are the political and cultural imports presented. Chicago 10 involves politics in areas of its film where as Restrepo does not. Even though there is no mention of President Nixon or JFK in Chicago 10, there were many more political elements than were in Restrepo. This, in my opinion, made Chicago 10 tougher to understand and more biased. The use of animation to recreate scenes and the judge as an antagonist made the court room scenes seem overdramatic and less historical. Restrepo involves little to no politics and focuses more on reporting and journalism. Junger had experience with combat and in an interview for National Geographic he said, “They knew Tim and I had been in plenty of wars before this, so they didn’t really offer any advice (Hetherington).” His past experience and knowledge of war is what made Restrepo that much more effective and intense for the audience. It also made the footage less biased and more factual.
Genres tell a lot about a film and categorize certain films as similar. Chicago 10 and Restrepo are similar in their attempt to capture real life events. There are different ways of capturing reality. Chicago 10 is more abstract and draws from outside elements to recreate events. Restrepo uses outside elements in addition to real life experiences. Our textbook references Restrepo on Page 288 and says it is, “at the most fundamental level, concerned with presenting actual people, events, and social realities of one sort or another to viewers.” I could not agree with this statement more. Restrepo is an excellent example of a documentary that remains unbiased and reports historical events as they occur. Chicago 10, in my opinion, is an example of a documentary that acts more as a story. The film elements present in Chicago 10 were weaker and more limited than that of Restrepo. I enjoyed the style and techniques of Junger over those of Morgan because it seemed more real to me. As Capt. Dan Kearney says in the film, the Korengal valley is the deadliest place on earth (Carr). This is exactly how Junger portrayed it and I was able to see why it is the deadliest place on earth.
Carr, David. “Valley of Death: One Platoon’s Tour of Duty.” New York Times. N.p., 16 June 2010. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.
Junger, Sebastian. War: Sebastian Junger. New York: Twelve, 2010. Print.
Morgan, Brett. “Filmmaker Statement.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.
Hetherington, Tim. “The Making of Restrepo.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.
Moore, John. “Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley.” Boston.com. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC, 12 Nov. 2008. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.