Sebastian Junger Takes Q’s at D.C. Premier of ‘Restrepo’

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By Betsy Rothstein 

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All eyes were on the perfectly sculpted author and film director Sebastian Junger Monday night after a showing of “Restrepo,” a war documentary he co-directed with British photographer Tim Hetherington (who did not attend). The premier was at National Geographic headquarters in downtown Washington. The Sundance prize-winning film hits theaters on July 7.

Junger, who has been on book tour for two months for War, showed up to the premier and sat on the dais alongside soldiers who appeared in the film. The audience was rapt while Junger spoke of his time in the field and of his views on Rolling Stone‘s recently published story on former Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

A challenge for Junger was sifting through 150 hours of footage for a 94-minute film. “There were great scenes that created some eddy in the narrative,” he said during the Q&A held post screening. “We couldn’t afford that.”

One criteria Junger said he and Hetherington used in creating the film was, did they re-experience the same emotions they had in the field? “We got rid of a lot of scenes that didn’t quite pass that test,” he said.

Another rule of thumb for the producers involved holding fast to reality. They could not do anything in the film that they or the soldiers couldn’t do in the field — they couldn’t talk to their families, so that meant no family interviews in the film. They couldn’t talk to an actor such as Morgan Freeman, so Freeman had no voice from beyond role explaining the depths of war.

As for the McChrystal story in Rolling Stone, Junger dodged the question. He neither slammed nor praised the author, Michael Hastings, saying only, “I really hope that the embed program doesn’t get tampered with. There is more access for press with the U.S. military than in any country in the world. It’s very good and noble. In a Democracy, it’s the only way to run the press and to run the military.”