Sat in a seminar in late 2009, discussion was put on hold so the class could watch a short film about the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Ten years previous, during an account of a particularly ghastly gassing incident described by Wilfred Owen in a First World War poetry class, we powered our way through the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. I vaguely remember the teacher suggest that we could learn how creativity can blossom in the most dire of circumstance (or something like that), as she sat in the back of the class reading the paper.
Both films were to act as a supplement helping us to visualise what normally we only get to read, on paper or on our computer screen.
And so to ‘Diary’, an incredible short film (worth 20 minutes of your life) made over a 10-year period by war reporter Tim Hetherington. He calls it “a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media”.
The images he captures are haunting, funny, distressful, beautiful and above all, incredibly real. Part of the film follows the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group. As the boy smiles and clasps his weapon (1 minute 45 seconds in) before returning to his game face, Wilfred Owen’s words – written almost a century earlier – speak volumes:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country).
The powerful nature of visuals provide a snippet of the happenings in our world and make us question our preconceptions. TIME magazine writer Peter Van Agtmael sums up why it is necessary, suggesting that Hetherington was able to make “a distant and abstract conflict become personal and relatable, and the great complexity of our troubled species is laid bare without judgement or pretence”.
Tim Hetherington was killed in Libya last week striving to lay bare the complexities of our troubled species so people like me can supplement written words with moving pictures.